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    WARNING: Stories on this site may contain mature language and situations, and may be inappropriate for readers under the age of 18.

    PROPHECY by Michael Colangelo
    August 21, 2008  Short stories   

    When I was a boy, my brothers and I used to play a game. A group of us would go out and find a wasp’s nest in the ground. One of us would give it a swift kick or three. The game was where we’d have to outrun the wasps. Once we were safe, we counted up our stings. The guy with the least amount of bites would be the winner.

    We never played for much – a couple of skin mags, maybe some cigarettes, possibly a couple of dollars. I never won at it anyway. My brothers – bigger and stronger, and probably quite a bit meaner than I’ll ever be would always beat me.

    It took me years to catch on that I’d never quite be able to outrun the wasps as easily as they could. Then I quit playing altogether.

    That’s how I tend to think in terms of the dead – like a whole pile of wasps. You can’t even tell that they’re around half the time. That is, until you kick the nest and they come swarming out all over you.

    And Oakland these days is the biggest wasp’s nest of them all.

    San Francisco is pretty nice this time of year. The vapors from the ocean give off a sort of orange hue at sundown. It makes it look like the seawater is made of gold. It’s nice. I’ve lived here for two years. I took one of the last Greyhounds out of Wyoming when things started to get bad. I’m glad I had the foresight to do so. California was better protected than the rest of it. San Francisco was better protected than the rest of California. I got lucky.

    Most people avoid major cities. I try not to stray far from San Francisco anymore. Before the networks went off the air, they’d show the attacks on television. Yeah, just like all of those movies, the dead have a taste for the living. So much for fantasy.

    The threat isn’t as pressing as it used to be, but it’s still always there. Once you die for the first time, you can’t die again.

    Not unless I shoot you full of holes or hit you in the head with a fire axe, that is.

    #

    It’s early morning and the city is very quiet. It’s always quiet out here at the perimeter because people don’t like to stray beyond the barb wire and the guns and the company that downtown tends to provide.

    Chester takes a drink from the clear plastic bag and then offers it to me. I pass. It’s vile stuff – Chester’s home brew – takes six months to age properly, he says. I say you go blind from drinking it – masturbation in a bag. Probably that happens too, knowing Chester.

    We’re sitting side-by-side in a dugout that faces the bridge towards Oakland, built of old steel and other salvage. Between the two of us we’ve got a bolt-action rifle and Chester’s old 9mm. Chester’s getting drunk, because nothing ever happens out here. I’m staying sober, because I know that one day soon something might.

    “I was thinking of signing on with the Temple of Set,” Chester tells me. His Detroit accent pleasantly slurred. “Those motherfuckers got real guns and they go cleansing.”

    “Not me,” I say. “Crazy religious holdouts – you know they put you in isolation chambers? Helps you get in touch with the inner you – causes schizophrenia too.”

    “They got hot bitches – and topless too – I’ll let them get in touch with me.”

    He grabs the bulge at his crotch and sneers out a low chuckle before continuing with his recruitment attempts: “’Sides, nothing ever happens on the bridge. Ain’t no zombies ever coming across to get us here.”

    “Mayor says…”

    “I know what Mayor says,” Chester interrupts. He’s quickly becoming intoxicated. “Mayor wants to keep folks on his side – keep ’em from joining up with the Temple where the real action is at. They got girls, son, and guns — real guns – not like this flimsy honky Davy Crockett collection of shit we got ourselves here.”

    He rattles the rifle at me and then pauses.

    I watch as his eyes go from a sort of glazed bemusement to a hard and clear and dark gaze that focuses on me.

    His eyes are filled with hate, suddenly.

    “Oh, I get it.” Chester’s voice is low and full of menace. “You don’t think that the Temple will take me on, right?” I shake my head – no, not true, but Chester turns the barrel of the weapon to face me anyway.

    “C’mon, just you and me and some zombies way out here. Tell the truth. Not a lot of black folk around anymore. Not since Oakland. Not living ones anyway.”

    He’s so drunk that he doesn’t even notice when I slip the Glock from the waistband of his jeans.

    “Seriously. Take that out of my face.” I warn him.

    He moves the bullet into the chamber with his thumb.

    So I jam the pistol up under his chin and blow the brains out the back of his head.

    #

    Mayor says we’re not supposed to leave our posts. That’s why we go out to the bridge dugout in pairs, to watch out for one another, or so there’s at least one on hand if the other decides to skip out. If I leave Chester in the dugout though, somebody will find him.

    Worse, he’ll rise.

    I’m sure I can kill him again, but I just got through with that. Never got used to it – killing, the living or the dead. It’s still the same feelings… betrayal and a kind of existential angst I can’t quite describe properly, but it exists.

    I can’t leave the post, but the bridge is empty and I can haul him across it into Oakland. I’ll dump him on the street on the other side, and if he rises and tries to make his way back, I’ll shoot him. Nothing wrong with doing your job, right?

    Chester doesn’t weigh much compared to most bodies. He’s tall but he’s also pretty skinny – all that lack of food and abundance of moonshine made him that way. I loop my arms beneath his shoulders and haul him out of the dugout. I tuck the pistol into my trousers and then begin to drag him slowly across the broken asphalt by his ankles. The back of his head leaks and leaves a red smear trail along the road behind us.

    I do my best to hurry with him – if he wakes again while I’m holding him I’ll freak. I’ll shit in my pants. I’ll scream. That’s another thing I’ve never quite gotten used to out here – the moment when they actually rise scares me worse than once they’re actually up and about most of the time. Something about that process — it’s unnerving. I’ve seen at least two other guys rise in my time and I’ve had to put at least a dozen back.

    Lucky for me, Chester stays dead for real. It takes me almost two hours to get him across the bridge, grunting and heaving the whole way. He finally gets heavy at about the halfway point and I mutter to myself for thinking it was ever a good idea to take him across to Oakland.

    Eventually, I make it.

    And over here, Oakland is a different world altogether.

    Nothing lives in Oakland anymore, except for the dead. Weeds and vegetation have overtaken its streets. The crumbling remains of old buildings and old structures lay alongside the roads – glaring hints that there was once civilization here. There are no animals. Not even birds. Nothing stirs inside the city.

    I dump Chester a few feet on the road once I get off the bridge and pause for a moment to wipe my brow with the back of my sleeve and take a rest. I survey the landscape as I do so. I realize I’ve never actually been across the bridge – guarded the thing for long enough, but never actually been over here to have a look around.

    Mayor says that it’s too dangerous, but the long grasses that sway in the wind all along the street, the climbing vines that curl their way around street lights and stop signs, and the rust-speckled direction signs that lay fallen on the ground seem almost tranquil and serene compared to life back inside the city — the arguments and the politics and the inner fighting among the factions of the living.

    And after dealing with treasures like Chester for most of my life, yeah, I might describe this side of the city as ‘peaceful’.

    No less than five minutes later, though, Oakland shows me her teeth.

    #

    There are only three of them at first, and I’m so tired I barely notice until they’re halfway across the street and no further than ten yards away. I don’t see them. I smell them and then I look up in time to watch as they move towards me. They’re not running, but they’re also not quite as slow as the ones in those old Romero films either.

    All three are blackened and with all of their clothing rotted or torn away, they look hard like featureless statues or mummies or men made out of carbon rather than real people. I begin to back away from them towards the bridge somewhere behind me, and Chester’s corpse lashes out and grabs me by the ankle. I stumble and fall to the pavement and put about eight more bullets into his head before he lets go of me.

    It’s bad timing, because the three are almost on top of me by the time I crawl to my feet. There are more coming too. All blackened and silent and eerie as they move through the grasses with barely a swishing sound.

    I turn and hightail it back down the bridge. I can’t hear anything but my high tops slapping against the concrete surface of the bridge, but I know that they’re back there, steadily following me in hopes of making lunch out of this living intruder from the other side.

    When I’m halfway across the bridge, I can see the spot where the dugout sits entrenched in the road. Normally, it’d be Chester and I in there, shooting whatever was coming across with the rifle. This time though, the dugout is empty, because I’m running back across the bridge like a fool, and Chester’s lying there with his head pulped, just inside Oakland city limits.

    Normally, we’d still be sitting inside the dugout, bored and complaining, but on the watch for things that might be coming across the bridge. This time though, I’m coming across the bridge, and I’ve brought some company with me.

    There is no rifle. There are no living to protect the city out here.

    And just like I’d kicked at a wasp’s nest…

    They’re all coming across.

    No time left to pause and count my bites.

    No prize.

    Nothing.

    9 Comments

    1. Thank you for a great new story. I enjoyed it. Did he get bit, cause I missed that. Thanks again.

      Comment by Zoe on August 21, 2008 @ 9:22 am

    2. Of course he did!

      Comment by MRC on August 21, 2008 @ 9:26 am

    3. Wait, why did chester rise? You killed him by shooting his brains out, and he wasnt infected. So he couldnt rise if not infected then with no brains the zombie would be dead anyways. Other than that great story.

      Comment by Ninjainyourpants on August 25, 2008 @ 7:30 pm

    4. Ya good story man. I agree with Ninjain though, how did Chester reanimate when a bullet splattered his brain? I also wanted to know, why did it take 8 bullets to the BRAIN to drop Chester after the reanimation. Like I said earlier, the story was pretty good.

      Comment by Jami Fadare on August 26, 2008 @ 3:42 pm

    5. hey guys, its a good story and i dont think any one hsould judge, only critique… sure hoped i spelled that right, how stupid would i look?

      Anyways, theres alot of diferent zombie theories and types, i comend anyone for thinking outside the box. ive had hundreds of ideas for storys, but even i cant steer away from the pop culture normality.

      so kudos!

      Comment by xZSMx on September 8, 2008 @ 10:33 pm

    6. great story i also agree with ninja. Oh, and xZSMx you misspelled should.

      Comment by Kornydemon on September 11, 2008 @ 12:43 pm

    7. For the folks asking about “how did Chester rise”, or “why did Chester rise”, remember how much confusion would be likely in this setting. Not everyone would know exactly why Zack is up and walking around. So it seems likely that there’d be enough misinformation for myths to start. So it could be a case of an unreliable narrator. Which means that Chester might not have risen at all, the narrator may have just tripped over the corpse, and overreacted out of fear.

      Comment by cory on September 15, 2008 @ 9:17 pm

    8. My take is that in this author’s version of a zombie infested world, something is in the air or is already in our bodies (presumably taken in through the air or some other means) but latent, only “awakening” upon our deaths. A zombie attack need not be the cause of death – dying of anything will trigger the reanimation process.

      Comment by Bill Bultas on September 22, 2008 @ 2:10 am

    9. In the original Romero films the recently dead were rising all over the world for no apparent reason which would suggest an air born pathogen. In the later films and in the “Z War” book it’s a mysterious virus, probably man made of Chinese origin. Something that was tried and then buried then found again in the reservoir in China.

      Fact is it could be anything we choose. We are creating fiction so enjoy it.

      Comment by Andre on December 17, 2008 @ 2:25 am

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