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All The Dead Are Here - Pete Bevan's zombie tales collection

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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.

March 16, 2010  Short stories   Tags: ,   

I’m interviewing Malcolm Price, veteran of a US-Army-run concept military unit. There are less than fifty survivors of the original batch of three thousand, making him one of the rarest of interview subjects I have run across. Their designation, “Canaries”, hearkens back to the days of coal miners using small birds in cages as primitive poisonous gas detection systems; if the bird died, the mine was considered “unsafe”.

“To me, it didn’t sound too bad, honestly. The offer seemed solid: relative freedom, ‘for the duration of hostilities’, in exchange for wearing their little harness-and-bit, sent out into the boondocks and told what to do. We all weren’t allowed to speak to each other, back at the cells, but the word got around; we’re good at doing that kind of thing.”

**A pause, as he lights a newly-produced “Pelican Blue”-brand cigarette; one of the many goods produced at this facility.**

“We were sent in groups of three; the radio guy, the medic, and then someone like me, the butcher. We had clever pirate nicknames for our jobs, but it all boiled down to those three; the one who could pass the word, the one with the L Pills and then the meanest thing moving that they could harass, connive or just flat-out blackmail into joining. It sure beat working in the laundry, the mess hall, the gardens, whatever. You got some open air, decent chow, and if you could play it straight long enough, a date who didn’t have a mustache. That, believe me – that put many of us on the straight and righteous path.”

**A slight smirk, shaking his head.**

“That craziness aside, let me tell you a thing or two about how we handled a day at ‘the office’.. We get up at two hours to dawn; neat little silent alarms built into the harness made sure we all got up at the same time, if some jackass fell asleep early or on guard detail. So, we roll out of wherever we were camped or holed up, find some high ground, take our morning pictures. They use some kind of infrared camera for those, called a ‘forward-looking infrared’, or ‘FLIR’. We’re looking, at first, for heat sources: parked cars, trucks, trains, boats, whatever. Things with motors. We’re also supposed to keep an eye on moving groups of heat sources; people, herd animals, that kind of thing. Once in a while, you get a steam vent, and its letting out air in the eight-five  to ninety-degree range, so you got to check it out.”

** I ask: “Were there many sources of heat, after the panic had disabled most power plants?” **

“Oh, Hell, yes! Plenty. Fires burning underground, in the sewers, even tectonic activity.” **A smile.** “When we hit Los Angeles, I’d never seen an open tar pit before. But, in infrared? A thing of absolute beauty. A swirl of purple, green, blue, red, yellows, oh, man..” **He sighs, chuckling.** “We moved on up into the Valley, then got ordered into, of all places, Death Valley. We’d gotten our hands on some dune buggies and a pickup truck, so we made decent time; didn’t lose anybody, except one idiot who tried to catch a big-ass scorpion for some reason. He had some kind of allergic reaction to it, we figured, but he just dropped dead, right then and there.” **A shrug.** “We make it into and out of Los Angeles, alive and intact, and this guy dies of a scorpion bite. Funny world, huh?”

**Offers a cigarette; I accept, if to be polite. It is delicious, reminiscent of old-world tobacco.**

“We make those here, you know?” **A gesture behind him.** “All that aside, we were mostly over thirty, not well-educated and very, very motivated. Just what they wanted out of us; survivors, bred and born, raised in our own private little Hells and determined to hold up our end of the deal. We told ’em, straight-out, in the beginning: ‘You screw us over, you will have grief in every corner of the world. You’re watching us, but we’re watching *YOU*.’ They took us seriously, after what happened at the Miami-Dade thing.  So, we all knew the score. We do good, we set an example; they do us dirty, we make them into an example.

I guess what made it all seem so surreal was how we were treated; we were among the first people who went into the sewers, to determine if the rat population was high enough to merit exploration by those crazy Diver Dan guys. Not many rats? Then, its got a Z-boy problem. Plenty of rats? You might have some survivors. No rats?”

**A pause, staring at me, unblinking.**

“Then you send in three Canaries. We go in, low and hard, armed with no guns, for a couple of reasons. You set off a spark, you’re a fireball waiting to happen. You pop off a round, you’ve gone deaf for a while; long enough to become a mobile buffet for one or more of them down there. You draw the wrong attention from some itchy-trigger-fingered LaMoE, you’re a goner. So, down we went. We’d have these neat little claw hammers, pipe wrenches, our trailing radio wire, our sledgehammers, all of it, drenched to the bones, chilled marrow-deep, going down into the bottom of the world. We find a store’s basement door, we give it a few kicks, mark it when its open, move on; this way, the Diver Dans had access safe, dry spots, once in a while. A few doors had friends on the other side, which is another good reason to move as a group; easier to play head-bashie.”

**”Head bashie?”**

“Yeah. Kind of a quick, dirty way to get through a bunch of people in a hurry. You got one guy who just grabs someone by the throat, pins them against a wall, then drops the body away. Another guy, he stabs or slams their brains out with a screwdriver, hammer, brick, whatever. The third guy, he’s alternating spots with the other two. You rotate the positions, and with enough practice, you can off twenty or so guys in a minute. We wore butchers’ aprons and these leather jackets; you regret it in the heat or the damp, but down in the dark, believe me, you loved it. Throw on some thick-ass gloves and a set of cleated boots, and you’re ass-kicking from the get-go.”

**He rolls his left arm, palm up, towards me, nodding at the twin crescent-shaped scars.**

“Bet you never met a guy who got bit by a Z-boy and lived, huh?” **He chuckles.** “One of them basement doors, it lead to a nursing home. Some old guy in a plaid robe bit me, and I put the boot to his ass so fast and hard, you’d think it was Prom Night.” **He grins.** “I’m about to eat my own knife when the radio guy, he smiles and points to the Z-boy’s mouth, shows me the dentures. Man, I swear, I nearly killed that thing again, just on general principles.”

**”What other tasks did your unit get assigned?”**

“We got a lot of fun ones, some fucked-up ones, too. Like, clearing out the biocontainment labs at the Center for Disease Control, down in Atlanta. We did some job for USAMRIID, too. They suited us up, gave us the basic instruction, then had us act as the ‘eyes and hands’ of the Army Dr. Frankensteins they could round up. We totally killed smallpox. Like, forever.”

**”Wasn’t smallpox eradicated before the Collapse?”**

“Sure, dude. You go on thinkin’ about that bein’ true, and I’ll just be sittin’ here, remembering how I felt pouring Clorox into the freezer.”

**”Please, continue.”**

“Anyways, we got the word we were shipping out, going off to [undisclosed location]. We were freaked. We’d heard about it, from other Canaries. We’d heard that [government agency] was doing some really weird shit out there, shit involving [undisclosed technical terms] and [undisclosed transportation technology]. So, we got suited up in these weird-ass spacesuits, and sent off on a US C-130, then proceeded into [redacted for security purposes] where we found at least five hundred of them [redacted] in purple paint [redacted] on fire. By the time any of it made any degree of sense, [undisclosed military unit] shipped us back out to headquarters, had us sign [undisclosed amount] inches thick. Man, I’m actually glad I’m back. I get conjugal visits from a friend’s widow; all the smokes I want; a commisary account which looks like the old national defense budget and my own private cell.”

**He gestures to the surrounding prison facility.**

“Not a bad gig, all told. Its weird, but I went from axe murderer to axe murderer, and the only thing that changed was being told it was okay again.”

**He stares at me, unblinking.**

“If that starts to make sense to you, you let me know. I’ve got room in the cell next door.”

**I exit the Pelican Bay Supermaximum Security Penal Facility, taking note of the thirty cars in the parking lot with Department of Defense tags on the bumpers. Two days after my interview, I am told my subject, Inmate #341229-E, hung himself in his cell, leaving only a single word as his note: “Clorox”.**


  1. Cool story Rev! Very World War Z…

    Comment by Jackpot on March 16, 2010 @ 11:01 am

  2. great story, love the “Food” single word mentality I could easily match a voice to the zombie speak as I read. keep up the good work.

    Comment by discozombie on March 16, 2010 @ 11:18 am

  3. my bad my previous comment was for a different story. I just get too excited about zombie stories.
    BTW love this story, great all around.

    Comment by discozombie on March 16, 2010 @ 11:21 am

  4. Good read !

    Comment by Scooter on March 16, 2010 @ 11:37 am

  5. Yup very World War Z, it could have been lifted from the book itself. I guess someone would need to do the dirty work after all is said and done. I find it interesting as well that a Reverend writes Z horror, I don’t know why though?

    Comment by Pete Bevan on March 16, 2010 @ 11:43 am

  6. I mean I don’t know why I find it interesting, not I don’t know why he writes horror 🙂

    Comment by Pete Bevan on March 16, 2010 @ 11:44 am

  7. DENTURES!!! Man, that is freaking hilarious! Brilliant, man, just brilliant!

    Other than the formatting, this was great! Maybe a little more about the Canaries? That would make a great series.

    Comment by cdugger on March 16, 2010 @ 4:48 pm

  8. That was excellent. It had a nice flow and was brutal in all the right places. Right out of the war. I also liked the sewer part. You could expand on that.

    Comment by Drew Fuller on March 17, 2010 @ 9:46 am

  9. You beat me to expressing an idea and did it better than I thought of. From the sewers of Paris to the stores of L.A.. Lovedit!!

    Comment by Mac on March 17, 2010 @ 1:30 pm

  10. Great story, I didn’t want it to end.

    Comment by Doc on March 17, 2010 @ 4:22 pm

  11. CLOROX! Fuckin’ A, man! Fuckin’ A!

    Comment by Cherry Darling on March 19, 2010 @ 11:18 am

  12. Great story! I love the way its written!! Denture! HA! FUNNY! Lucky man! Keep up the great work! I agree with Pete, A Rev who wirtes zombie stories..AWSOME!!

    Comment by Jen on April 7, 2010 @ 5:13 pm

  13. Include this in WWZ II

    Comment by Eljay on February 18, 2011 @ 5:50 pm

  14. Nice, you have to love a hard ass killer made good.

    Comment by Gear Jammer on April 6, 2012 @ 3:04 pm

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