Zombietown, conclusion

I found her at the end of a nearby pier. She was having difficulty untying a boat with only one hand.

I pointed my gun at her and shouted, “Stop!”

She did and looked at me. Even from a distance, I could tell she was deciding between trying the boat anyway and reasoning with me.

“Jimmy, I didn’t mean to hurt you. It was Samedi’s idea. You know I lov…”

I shot her before she finished. The bullet made a perfect round hole in her forehead, exiting her skull in a crimson explosion. A fleeting look of astonishment passed over her face. Then there was nothing. Her body hit the floor hard. And stayed there.

I approached slowly, gazing at her still form. At that moment I realized that despite the disgust, hatred and contempt I felt for Zombietown, a tiny part of me had hoped that this trip, this walk down a very disturbed memory lane, would prove me wrong. That I would find a sign that there was more to this place than I had allowed myself to see.

That tiny part was wrong. I had always been right.

I had sworn I’d never go back to Zombietown again.

Zombietown, part 9

I rose and heard another shot. The left side of my abdomen exploded and I fell again. However, I’m not one of the nine percent who have their whole body as a weak spot. Despite the pain, I turned on my back and peered in the direction I heard the shot had come from. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was Lenore. She still wore the long black dress from Samedi’s. Smoke rose from the barrel of the gun in her hand. She was standing next to the Baron.

“I’m impressed,” he said, “According to Lenore, that shot should have done you.”

He was right. After all, I belonged to the remaining one percent; the exotics that have their weak spot in some obscure part of the body, in my case, the spleen.

“But since you’re in pain, I must conclude there was a degree of truth to her claim,” he continued.

Again, he was right. That shot did take out my spleen, hence the pain ¾ a zombie only feels pains when its weak spot is damaged. However, thanks to the Army warlocks who magicked my weak spot to my appendix, I was still unlive.

“No matter,” he said, “A few more bullets and I’m sure we’ll hit something vital.”

“Whatever your plan is, Samedi, it won’t work,” I said, still in pain.

“Plan? You sound like a comic book character, Jimmy. And save the bravado, please. I know you came here all by yourself. You have a reputation as something of a maverick in the police department, even though you have that partner of yours, Gills.”

“His name is C.L. Black,” I forced between greeted teeth. Only his friends could call him Gills.

“Whatever. There’s nothing you can do now. The trucks have already left to deliver the flesh. That reporter though, she could have spoiled the whole scheme. I must confess her connections to the Gorgons took me by surprise, but luckily the police saw fit to send their most narrow-minded thananthrophobic detective to investigate the case.”

“What do you mean by trucks?” I asked, ignoring the insults and attempting to stall for time. His colossal arrogance, and perhaps my genuine look of confusion, made him explain the scheme.

“I had the idea several years ago, that’s why I invested in the flesh market — as you may recall, I’m the main importer and distributor of flesh in the city. I was inspired by Romero’s motto: all flesh must be eaten. But the key point here, Jimmy, is whose flesh must be eaten? When I realized that, I contacted some associates of mine overseas. After several years of research, they finally provided me with a mystically engineered flesh that will turn anyone who eats at least an ounce of it into one of us.”

One of you! I thought, but kept to myself.

“Of course, it won’t work on everyone. Other undead, for example, will be immune. That’s a minor problem though, since they represent a small proportion of the population. The important thing is that, once they join our ranks, they will feel our misery. They will know what it’s to be treated as the scum of society, to be…”

“Spare me the propaganda, Samedi,” I said, “I don’t buy you as a hero of the masses. There must be an angle here for you. Say, what tribe are all those people gonna be turned into? Surely not the Quick, or the Problem Solvers. I’d bet good money we are going to see a lot of Dead Joes, or even the Dumb. What else does this mystical flesh do? Make them more susceptible to suggestions?” I knew I had struck a chord when Samedi’s gleeful expression disappeared.

“I knew you were a selfish bastard the day you left us, Jimmy,” Lenore said, “Can’t you see he’s trying to help us all?”

“You’re not fooling me anymore. There must be something for you in this too, beside “happiness for all zombies” and all that crap!” I spat at her. She didn’t like my comment by her reaction. She pointed the gun at me and…

A shot rang. Her hand exploded. Another shot. Samedi’s chest exploded, blood flooding his white suit. Lenore fled and Samedi fell. Gills came running out of the darkness and helped me up. Good thing I had phoned him.

“Gurgle gurgle gurgle?” he asked.

“Yeah, I’m okay,” I replied.

“Gurgle gurgle gurgle gurgle,” he said.

“I don’t care if I don’t look okay, I am! Look, we don’t have time for this. You gotta radio the precinct and tell them about the trucks and the flesh.”

“Gurgle gurgle gurgle gurgle gurgle gurgle?” he asked.

“I’m going after her,” I said, grabbing my gun and limping after Lenore.

Zombietown, part 8

After a brief phone call and a fifteen-minute walk, I reached the waterfront. All around the world, these areas are reputed to be seedy. In Zombietown, that was a gross understatement. The simple fact that the streets were deserted here was proof enough.

Locating Samedi’s warehouses proved easy, since he seemed to own most of the place. I didn’t expect much security, except for some thugs. Intricate and expensive security systems attracted undue attention to your property in Zombietown, as if you were advertising that you had something so precious it required the extra security. I picked the gate’s lock in two minutes. I ran across the large, empty parking space towards the first warehouse. Light streamed from inside. I took out my gun, stole over to a window and peered inside. Four zombies sat at a table playing cards. Actually, only three were playing, the fourth was nibbling what looked suspiciously like the bones of an arm. I kicked down the door and burst in, trailing my gun on them. A good thing about Zombietown is that “warrant” and “probable cause” are just words here.

“Hands behind your heads!” I shouted.

They ignored me, as I suspected they would, and started moving my way. A gun isn’t all that frightening to a zombie. Its threat level depends on the size of your weak spot and the skill of the shooter. Unfortunately for them, I had spent seven years in an Army special ops unit, the Nightcrawlers. I fired four times, hit four heads and dropped two of them. Over fifty percent of all zombies have their brain as their weak spot. Two more shots, two upper chests pierced and one more zombie down. The heart is the weak spot of thirty percent of all zombiekind. By then, the remaining guard, a big fella, had gotten close enough to jump me. We fell down, but I used the momentum to roll and throw him. He fell a few feet away; ending the movement with his back turned to me. I had managed to keep my gun and took the opportunity to put three slugs along his backbone. He didn’t get up. That put him in the ten-percent group of zombies with spines as their weak spot.

Zombietown, part 7

Lenore did, unfortunately for her. Her eyes were misty and, sure enough, the tears began rolling down. That calmed me. Tears have that effect on me. To tell the truth, I think they have that effect on most zombies — at least those who still have their wits about them — for two reasons. First, the vast majority of zombies is physically and psychologically incapable of crying. They kissed their tear ducts goodbye when they joined the undead, and the trauma of death precludes them from relating to most experiences from Before — one’s previous life in zombie parlance. Second, unlife in Zombietown beats all sentimentality into a pulp before long. It drains you of any softness, leaving behind a hard shell and a cold interior, hardly favorable conditions for an emotional display. The rarity of this event is best illustrated by the Zombietown equivalent of the expression “when Hell freezes over”: when a zombie sheds a tear.

Lenore’s tears allowed my more rational self to take control again. She had collapsed on the chair and was now sobbing with her face cupped in her hands. I knelt beside her and with my hand gently raised her chin. Her mascara had run down her cheeks, giving her a melancholic worn out look.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

I feel only a bitter hatefulness for Zombietown and its inhabitants. With Lenore is different, I feel affection too. This simple positive element should have enabled me to recognize how special she was, and how dumb I was for not telling her so. It had always been hard for me to express my feelings. Add in the resentment and the many years I spent building walls around me. That’s why I didn’t say anything else to her. I just stood, turned and walked to the door.

“Jimmy,” she called as I was leaving.

I paused and looked back at her.

“I don’t know if it’s important,” she said, “but that reporter… She was here. She kept asking me about Samedi’s warehouses on the waterfront.”

“Thanks, babe,” I said and left.

Zombietown, part 6

I knocked on her backstage door and waited. There was a faded golden star on it, with her name written underneath. I felt strangely numb. Repulse and anticipation canceling each other, perhaps. After a few seconds, she asked who was it. I didn’t know how to answer. If I was honest, she might not open the door. Then again, she might be curious about what had happened to me since we had broken up.

“It’s me, Jimmy,” I answered.

There was a long silence. Then footsteps, then the door opened. We stood face to face.

“What do you want here?” she asked coldly.

“I’m investigating a murder,” I answered, which was partly true. She didn’t need to know I wanted to talk to her again.

“A Zombietown murder? Being investigated? That is something!” she smirked, sarcasm oozing from her voice. She turned her back to me and walked to her dresser, leaving the door opened. I took that to be as welcoming an invitation as I was gonna get and so stepped into the room, closing the door.

She sat down in front of the vanity mirror and started slowly brushing her lovely red hair. That awakened memories I thought long dead and buried. No words were coming out of her mouth, so I opened mine.

“Her name was Medea Boid. She was a reporter for the Dusk Diary. A zombie killed her earlier tonight. The thing is, she had connections with the Gorgon family and now they’re pressuring us to find out what happened. Did you see her tonight?”

“You should ask Samedi about it,” she said, still brushing her hair.

“I already did,” I said.

“Then you have all the answers you need.”

“Not really. He blew me off with that small talk of his and…”

“Look, you thing you can just waltz in here after fifteen years and pretend nothing happened?!!” she snapped suddenly, rising and turning to face me. She had a half-angry, half-hurt look in her face. I was caught somewhat off-guard, but I recovered quickly.

“As I recall, you refused to come with me when I asked you,” I shot back at her.

“Leave Zombietown when people here needed all the help they could get?” she asked me, an incredulous look on her face. The same look she had fifteen years ago.

“Help people? Come on, this place was a cesspool. They deserved everything they got.”

“How can you say that? Romero was trying to change things,” she said. She believed it, I could tell.

“Oh please! Romero was a puppet. Samedi pulled all his strings. And what did they accomplish? More misery and pain. All those people died a second time for nothing!” I said with such intensity that I surprised myself. I was aware of all the resentment I carried. What I didn’t know was that it had festered all those years, growing into a dark disturbing thing. I felt relieved to finally let it out, to finally be able to express it to someone who would understand the full weight of it.

Zombietown, part 5

“But enough about me! I want to know what brings Jimmy Valadares back to Z-town,” he said, sipping his champagne.

“There was a murder earlier tonight — a reporter from the Dusk Diary. We found her body a stone’s throw from the Bone Gate. Forensics confirmed that a zombie did it,” I said, studying his face.

“Since when does the police care about murders in Zombietown?” he asked nonchalantly.

“She had connections to the Gorgon family.”

“I see,” he said, sipping again his champagne and letting nothing register on his face.

“My captain sent me here to investigate the case. I knew that a reporter in Zombietown would, sooner or later, come here to talk to you. So, did she?”

“Hmm, I don’t recall. It’s all a bit vague…”

“Her name was Medea Boid,” I offered.

“Oh! Snakes on her head?” he asked and I nodded. “Yes, yes. She came by earlier this evening. Asked some crazy questions about a conspiracy. She had a very active imagination.”

“Conspiracy? What kind of conspiracy?” I asked, intrigued.

“I don’t know. As soon as I realized she was wasting my time, I finished our interview. You know the Dusk Diary is not exactly respectable.”

I tried extracting more information out of him, but failed. He had already given me everything he intended to. To stay any longer would only waste my time. I stood up.

“What? Leaving already, Jimmy? Are you sure you don’t want to stay for the show?” he said. As if on cue, the lights dimmed and a spotlight turned on above the stage. The curtains drew apart. I stood paralyzed. Lenore. Bathed in bright white light, like an angel. The same cascading fiery hair and fair green-tinged skin. In a tight, long black dress that revealed she had lost none of her charms. She started singing “Someone to Wither for Me.”

I felt confident that I was over her. After all, she had chosen to stay instead of leaving with me, fifteen years ago. She had chosen to remain among that which I most despised. I accused her of having a misplaced sense of loyalty and she retorted that I had a very “well placed sense of shame.” I had left then and had never looked back. Until that moment, that is. Or was it? There was only one way to find out. Besides, I could also pump her for information.

Zombietown, part 4

Twenty minutes later, I arrived at Samedi’s. It looked exactly the same. The big, garish, blood red neon sign; the heavy oak double doors with gruesome scenes engraved on them; and Bull, the bouncer. He was a big fellow – six five, over two hundred pounds – with mottled skin and dead white eyes. He watched me as I approached. He didn’t say a word, but I detected a subtle smirk. I ignored him and entered the club. Just before the main saloon, there was a small foyer where you could leave your coat. Above the second set of doors that led to the saloon, stood a mahogany board engraved with the words “All Flesh Must Be Eaten”. That was Romero’s motto during the riots. What a joke!

The saloon was as spacious as I remembered it. A sea of tables and booths spread over three tiers. There was a big stage at the far end, but it was dark and quiet right now. The lighting was subdued and the speakers were crooning “Zombietown”, an old hit from an era when it was hip to “shamble”. The place looked busy, with many clients looking for dangerous shambling action, mostly from outside Zombietown, ironically. I had no difficulty locating the Baron, as he liked to be called. He always dressed in white Necromani suits to contrast with his dark, overstretched skin. I walked over to his table. When he saw me, he smiled.

“Well, well, well! The prodigal son returns!” he said, standing up and throwing open his arms as if to embrace me. I knew better than to trust anything he did or said. The Baron was a cold, heartless son of a bitch. Dealing with him was dangerous.

“Samedi,” I said coldly.

“Sit down, my friend,” he said jovially, returning to his chair. “How long has it been? Ten? Fifteen years? I want to know everything that happened to you since then, but first…” He signaled a passing waiter and ordered a bottle of champagne and a steak for me.

“I’m not hungry,” I said. I still felt a bit sick from the odors of the street and I didn’t trust Samedi’s source for flesh.

“Oh, don’t be silly! I know what you’re thinking. That it’s unregulated flesh. It’s not. I’m legal. In fact, I cornered the market in the city. I’m responsible for ninety percent of all import and distribution.” That was news. I remembered that Samedi started investing in it after the riots, but I had no idea he intended to create a monopoly. “See? You can eat it and forget that dreadful, synthetic golem-flesh crap.”

The waiter brought the champagne. Samedi popped the bottle and poured two glasses. I left mine untouched.

Zombietown, part 3

I stood before the Bone Gate, the “official” entrance to Zombietown. According to local legend, it was built from the bones of all the zombies that died during the Romero Riots, fifteen years ago. Right now, I didn’t care about that. All it was to me was a barrier… No, a shield against my past. By crossing it, I’d be returning to a part of my life I’d rather forget. I had sworn I’d never go back to Zombietown again.

I entered. The first thing to hit me was the wall of oppressive heat and humidity. It felt like a jungle. Then the smells. Fried flesh, roasted flesh, boiled flesh, raw flesh. They watered my mouth and nauseated me at the same time. Then the crowd. There’s no such thing as free space in Zombietown. In fact, an old proverb states that if there is nobody there, then you probably don’t want to be there. All the sidewalks are covered with stalls where you can buy everything imaginable. The streets were the province of pedestrians. Lots of them. Walking, shambling, crawling, always moving. Vacant eyes, hungry eyes, desperate eyes. Misery all around.

It took me almost half an hour to get my bearings. I tried pumping the vendors for information, but, as I suspected, nobody knew anything. If I wanted answers of any kind, even misleading ones, I’d have to go to that damned place, Samedi’s. I had hoped it wouldn’t come to that. A good part of my past life was connected to that place ¾ I had worked there, fallen in love there. Being in Zombietown was hard enough; going to that place would be excruciating. However, I had no other option. If I went back to the precinct empty handed, the captain would eat my liver — literally.

I resigned myself to confronting my demons and started walking. As I worked my way through the crowded streets and alleys, I could sense them watching me. They saw me as a zombie, but I didn’t, and they could feel it. I didn’t care. What they thought of me didn’t matter because I didn’t belong here anymore.

Zombietown, part 2

I looked forward to immersing myself in work. That brush with the past had brought back memories I’d rather leave buried. Unfortunately, that wasn’t gonna happen. As soon as I sat down at my desk back at the precinct, the captain burst into the office.

“Don’t get too comfy, Valadares. You’re hitting the street again. I was just on the phone with Commissioner Dracula. Yeah, that’s right, the Count himself. It seems that Boid chick you guys found outside Zombietown was related to a second cousin, or sister-in-law, of the Gorgons. And they want to know what’s happened,” he barked at Gills and me.

Great, I thought. “Captain, we’re still waiting for the tests results from…” I didn’t get a chance to finish.

“Valadares, I don’t think you understood. I said I was on the phone with Dracula. He told me he expected information in the next few hours, or he would come down here in person. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need that fanged son of a bitch breathing down my neck. Especially, my neck.

“So I’m sending you out again. Go snoop around Zombietown and see what you can dig up. Gills stays here. If he went with you, he would stick out like a… Well, like a fish-man in a zombie hood.”

“Sir, I don’t think I’m the best…”

“Save it, son! I don’t care what you think. You’re a detective and this is your job. Deal with it!” The captain could be a fanged son of a bitch too, especially on full moons.

Zombietown, part 1

Her body lay lifeless on the street. Even in its current mangled state, I could see she had been a beautiful woman. Her gray scaly skin contrasted strikingly with her black skirt and green blouse, even though they were soaked with blood. Some of her hair had been pulled out, but there were enough snakes left to show she cared about her appearance. Her left arm was missing, apparently bitten off. Not surprising, since we were half a block from Zombietown.

Zombietown. I had sworn I’d never go back to Zombietown again. I had left all that misery behind me. I wasn’t one of them anymore.

“Gurgle.” Gills, my partner, broke my reverie. A good thing too. I didn’t want to waste time thinking about Zombietown.

We walked towards the head forensics guy, Digger.

“So, Digger, what’s the score?” I asked.

“Valadares, Gills. Well, I only have preliminary data, but I’m pretty sure it was a shambler.” He meant a zombie. Like me. No, not like me. I wasn’t one of them anymore. Nobody outside Zombietown calls them zombies. It’s always “shambler”, or “deadmeat”, or “brainjunkie,” or a dozen other nicknames.

“Can you give us a tribe?” I asked. Even though most people think of zombies as just one big, stupid, lurching, flesh-eating group, in truth there are several tribes.

“I’m a ghoul, Valadares, not a psychic. I’ll need to run a few tests back at the lab,” he said, rising to face us. He took out a handkerchief and wiped his glasses. “Anyway, what’s the rush? She wasn’t anybody special. The officers found her purse. Her name was Medea Boid, a reporter with the Dusk Diary. Have you heard of her? Me neither. So it’s not like we’re going to be pressured to solve this case. She probably went in there looking for some shambling action and things got a little out of control.

“Relax, Valadares. It’s Zombietown.”

He was right, of course. Nobody gave a damn about what happened in Zombietown, least of all me. I had sworn I’d never go back to Zombietown again.