SEQUEL TO THE PEZZOLANTI COLLAR
I roll off her, sweating and breathing hard. Almost instantly, my brief dalliance with euphoria ebbs away. My desires slaked, and the image of Dr. Pezzolanti creeps back into the forefront of my mind.
I mop away the matted hair on my wife’s forehead; she looks so much like a kewpie doll, my dear Camille. A slightly bulbous, almost childlike forehead, high pert cheekbones, pouty lower lip, her upper lip rising to two sharp peaks. Her lips are dark red in stark contrast against her pale, white unblemished skin. I ponder if she ever used lipstick when alive.
I look into her saucer like eyes. “Do you wear lipstick, Camille?” I ask vaguely as I roll over and sit on the edge of the bed. I keep my back to her, and wince as the slow gurgling I have grown accustomed to comes back into her throat. The lull of sedation by sexual intercourse has become shorter of late, and I can take only so much vitamin C.
Cautiously, I reach for the ball gag I keep on the nightstand. I turn and look back into her eyes. They are glowing orange again, and in a harried dash I swing my legs back onto the bed and straddle my wife. She squirms violently as I struggle to fit the ball gag into her mouth.
“Quit…please, Camille.” She throws me off the bed, and I fall backwards between the dresser and the bed itself, my feet pointed toward the ceiling. I get my feet under me fast and delicately bat away her flailing arms. “Quit. Biting. Stop. Please,” I grab at her shoulders and pin her. “You are only making the inevitable more difficult. Please, my dear.”
I straddle her again, her thin frame twists as she tried to buck me off, but it is too late. I pin her arms to the bed one knee at a time. At last, I have my hands free to hold the ball gag.
She lets out a sullen whimper and she turns from me, tears flow from her vacant crimson eyes and she doesn’t resist as I carefully position the ball gag in front of her mouth. “They’re crocodile tears,” I tell myself. “Don’t fall for this ruse again.”
She lay motionless as I grab the straps to the ball gag, her head lolls lifelessly in my hands as I lift it to buckle the straps, almost as if her neck were broken, or on ball bearings. I pull at the pillow and position it behind her head, and gently sweep away her silky black hair.
“Be still, my dear Camille,” I soothe, gingerly lifting myself off her for a second time. I strap her to the bed, her body cold and frozen. Dead…yet still alive. Just like my love for her.
I watch as her chest rises and falls, and satisfied, I turn on the Playboy channel and reach for the bottle of Viagra next to the night stand and try not to cry myself to sleep. The clock reads only 11:03. The red numbers shine at me, mocking me. Reminding me I’m in for another long, sleepless night.
The next day I am haggard. I sit in my office at work and stare blankly at the computer screen. Monitor. Monitor, I tell myself. I open an Excel spreadsheet, and scroll aimlessly to the right, the columns grow deep in their alphabet soup. Or are they rows? The screen takes on the appearance of something out of the Matrix in my groggy condition, until I stop at last at my marker.
I don’t know if what I’m doing is considered secure, clandestinely checking and rechecking data in this manner. To be honest, I don’t care anymore. I’ve been keeping my affairs with Dr. Pezzolanti right out in the open…more or less. I figure if the Institute ever questions me, I can honestly say there was nothing covert happening. I’m done with secrecy. Secrecy and dishonesty have placed me where I am today. Here I am, alone in my office as my assistant professor teaches my lesson. My lesson. Behavioral Science Pertaining to Crowd Control Through Propaganda. The core of the lesson, naturally, is the unspoken provocation of widespread paranoia using the tales of the undead. Zombie propaganda, feed the masses corpse shill and watch as they squirm in giddy delight. Damn the masses, damn them to hell. Damn Pezzolanti, too. The bastard genius, the man is given every possible resource to bring the apocalypse to fruition, and he squanders it on this…this…
I digress. The columns of the spreadsheet stop at my marker, and now I scroll down, and again my screen flashes nonsensical numerical analysis. Meaningless facts and figures, until I stop at last at appointments.
There it is. I’m to meet Dr. Pezzolanti for coffee downtown at a pretentious college catering café. Say that three times fast. It’s better than saying Star Spangled Coffee.
Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand the conundrum the good doctor and I are up against. Only, my involvement is…more…incidental instead of accidental. Or is it the other way around? Surely, our endeavor is no longer academic. That’s what worries me. Why then, does it not worry him? My wife…my beloved wife. Why has he forsaken her? Why has he forsaken me? Oh, what was I thinking that fateful night when I tried removing Camille from my life? What was I thinking? What was I thinking with…
A knock at my door awakens me from my stupor. I reach into my desk drawer and fiddle with the cap to my wakey time medicine. The bottle features a wild eyed trucker wearing a graduation cap, careening down a desolate highway. I can’t recall where I got the bottle, I don’t care. They’ve been my go to drug of late when I’m not at home satisfying my wife. “Know-Doze. Take two pills as needed.” Indeed. I down twelve and nod to the bottle, “Keep on truckin’.”
“Come in,” I say to whoever is disturbing my slumber.
It’s my assistant, Professor Dunlop. “Hello, Professor Dunlop,” I giggle effeminately, smile and gaze at her breasts as the stimulants kick in.
“It’s Daggart. Professor Daggart…remember?” She sighs as she sits in the chair across from me, and I strain to see if she’s wearing anything underneath her miniskirt.
Professor Dunlop, or Daggart, or whoever she insists she is, ignores my overt leering. “Shit, Jones,” she says. “Take a picture. What has gotten into you lately? You’re up, you’re down. I’m up to my eyeballs covering your schedule, not even mentioning mine. Jones?”
I nodded off and awake with a start. I pop a few more pills, “They’re lovely, by the way.”
I catch her off guard and she looks at me confused, “What?”
“Your eyes. It’s a shame your schedule covers them…”
I watch as three…no…four…Dunlops roll towards me as I sit behind my desk. Vaguely, from the far reaches of my consciousness, I try to close down my spreadsheet. Dunlop stares ice daggarts at me as she reaches for me. I’m falling down a long desolate highway, graduation caps are raining down around me. I’m riding with the wild eyed trucker. He lets go of the steering wheel and grabs me with his burly trucker strength. His voice sounds like my assistant and echoes through the darkness, “Jones? Jones?”
My name is Jones. Dr. Jones.
I awaken in a café. Dr. Pezzolanti is seated across from me, spooning mounds of sugar into a red white and blue Styrofoam cup. He stirs it with a miniscule red straw and is glaring at me, his eyebrows work like knitting needles at some equation, or some elusive quandary. The good doctor is always in deep thought.
“What the hell is wrong with you, Jones?” he hisses, elongating my name like it’s a difficult to pronounce disease.
I go to talk, but I can’t. My hand races towards my face, but there is no ball gag. Consciousness creeps in. The background noise of the café rushes into my ears like a tsunami. Young college coeds stand in line for overpriced coffee. I ogle the curvy ones wearing yoga pants and then feel a hard pinch on my leg. I try to yell “Ouch” but can only mouth the words. Nothing comes out.
That’s when I see sitting beside me, my buxom assistant, Professor Daggart.
Pez snaps his fingers in front of my face and I flinch. He speaks to my assistant, “Did he lose motor function in either side of his face? A stroke, perhaps?”
She shakes her head, “Never mind about Jones, you need to tell me what the hell is wrong with *you*, Dr. Pezzolanti. What were you thinking?”
Pez looks nervous. He always looks nervous in any situation outside of a lab. He’s most comfortable when there is a corpse lying on a gurney, twitching to life. Or death. The jury is still out on that one.
“I don’t…I don’t know what you mean,” he stammers. “A spreadsheet, you say?”
She nods and raises her eyebrows, her forehead is creaseless and her blonde hair is so inviting. I go to stroke it and she swats my hand away like I’m a gnat. A voiceless gnat. “It was a good thing it was me who found it,” she puts too much emphasis on the word *me*. In my speechless state, I can still perceive my assistant’s self-propelled, ego fueled trajectory through the collegiate career fast track. Say that three times fast. I let out a laugh and they both stare at me.
“That was not a laugh,” Pez assures Daggart. “I assure you, he’s awake, but not fully conscious. This is all a dream to him. He will first be unable to speak. And then, a sort of…stupor. He will fade between consciousness and unconsciousness until he…succumbs to the serum entirely.”
She feigns surprise, “And then?”
Pez stirs his coffee and grimaces as he swallows a gulp or two, “And then…we need to get him to my la-BOR-atory. Post haste!” He looks at the café counter, “Do you think they have cheesecake here? I’m dying for cheesecake.”
She reaches across the table, and with her strong Scandinavian hands pulls the thin doctor nearly over the table, “You. Will. Get. Your. Cheesecake…after you tell me what, exactly, you two have been working on.”
See? She doesn’t climb the ladder of success, she takes the freight elevator. She lets Dr. Pezzolanti down, and he goes right back to querying about cheesecake. I chalk it up to his old war stories about enduring public school cafeterias. Being bullied is old hat for him. She could better coerce answers from him by stroking his ego. I try to tell her this by stroking her big breasts, but she again swats me away like a disobedient lap dog. Oh, oh how I wish to sit on her lap and lick at her face. Please, let me.
“Cheesecake, then la-BOR-atory,” Pez says playfully.
“No,” she counters, “Story. Then cheesecake. Then you can scurry off to your overpriced lab.”
Pez spits coffee over the table and right into my face. I must say, it’s quite tasty, I find myself licking my face, and then licking my hands.
“It’s not a lab. It’s a la-BOR-atory. Watch this,” Pez says as he pours sugar on the table. I look at it stupidly. I look up at him, and down at the table again. “Go on, Big Boy,” Pez cajoles. I try to…resist. But I can’t. The sugar…looks so…so…well, it looks like Professor Daggart’s breasts, but in sugar form. I bend down and begin licking at the table. The sugar is sooo good. I lick at the table voraciously.
“Convivial,” Pez ponders aloud. Pez throws out the word like a preacher whistling his flock to a sermon.
My assistant stutters, “Conviv..” she starts fiddling with her smart phone.
“Convivial. It means merry, joyful…fond of dining with others.”
She looks up from her phone confused, “I’m sorry?”
Pez points at me, I look at him from the corner of my eye as he carefully doles out small portions of sugar on the table. My tongue follows the contours of the mounds of sugar like they are big, white mounds of…sugar. Oh, I love sugar.
Pez smiles, “No need to apologize. I often use words laymen professors are wont to hear. Wont means ‘not often’…not won’t….as in ‘won’t you be a dear and get me a slice of cheesecake?’ See?”
Daggart elbows me as she straightens her large, voluptuous frame in the booth. “Cheesecake? You want fucking cheesecake? Alright. Alright. I’ll get your damned cheesecake. And then you are going to explain to me how you raised the dead. Do you understand, you bald twit? Or did I use words too big for you?”
She gets up in a huff and stands in line behind the girls in their yoga pants. Daggart puts them to shame in her white lab coat. I stare after her and lick at the table and feel a slight kick under the table.
“Jones,” Pez says under his breath. His lips barely move, “Jones, you put us in a precarious position. How could you let this dimwit know? Never mind. Jones, if we don’t get you back to the lab within the hour, you are a goner. Do you understand? A goner. You and Camille will at last fulfill your marriage vows. Till death do you part? Unless you are undead, and then till eternity…or, if either one of you eats a lead bullet. Nod if you can understand me.”
I nod furiously, and Pez strokes my head and looks over his shoulder and says loudly, “Yes, Jones. Professor Daggart will bring you back a piece of cheesecake as well.” He smiles at her as she gives him the finger.
“No,” Pez waves back a peace sign, “Two pieces. Peace, man. Two pieces of peaceful cheesecake, colleague Daggart.” He mutters under his breath, “Or is it comrade Daggart? I’m telling you Jones, we are in over our heads if she starts blabbing to the Institute what we’ve done. This throws off the whole schedule. Over our heads. Nod if you understand.”
I shake my head in disagreement. How could I been so foolish? The sugar! I can write in the sugar! I pour sugar on the table. Oh…sugar. Sweet sugar. I begin lapping it up. No. No….I must converse with the doctor. I grab the salt shaker and unscrew the lid and pour the salt judiciously and spread it across the table. “YOUR head,” I spell as I run my finger clumsily through the salt.
Pezzolanti disagrees, “*Our* heads.” He begins erasing what I wrote until Professor Daggart interrupts him by slamming down plates of cheesecake with a loud clang.
“Eat your fucking cheesecake,” she orders.
“Make love, not war,” Pez giggles with anticipation.
She looks at what I had written in childlike penmanship. “Head?”
Pezzolanti hesitates, “That’s what he wants…and he means it.” He smiles at me, “Don’t you Dr. Jones?”
I phase in and out of lucidity. I don’t know what I want. The cheesecake looks unappetizing and I push it away. Pez slides it across to him as he digs into his own.
“Mmm. Mmm. MMM. This is good, you want in?” He offers a forkful to Daggart. She declines and instead slides her phone across the table. The corners of Pez’s lips drop down, defeated.
He places his fork down gently, “So there is a spreadsheet.” He glares at me, I stare back absently. Internally, I’m confused. One minute I want to hump anything with nipples in the café, the next, I want sugar. But with each passing moment, I feel reality ebb away from me, and darkness fills the void. I slowly shake my head. “No…” I think, “I didn’t mean to keep written records…”
Pez reaches for the phone but she snaps it back. “I have it all. Concrete. Formulas. Theories. Data. Meetings. All on the Institute’s dime,” now she begins to preach, but it’s a fever fitted sermon. “You stole, Dr. Pezzolanti. And from the looks of it, you used him,” she elbows me hard in the ribs, “as one of your twisted experiments.”
“No,” Pez says. He’s eating cheesecake and says between mouthfuls, “No, he is an accident.”
Aha! I knew it all along. I am an innocent victim in all of this…this…what? What am I? Am I a man, a zombie….a pupae? Undeveloped, my insides are like jelly. Must concentrate.
Pez stabs at the air with his fork, “Convivial, Professor Daggart. Use your smart phone for something other than espionage. What does it mean?”
A student walks by; she can’t be more than a sophomore. Her yoga pants have freshman written all over them. No, seriously. On her round, wiggly booty, white text on pink fabric, “Dat Ass.” Freshman…fresh meat. Meat. I shake my head. “Concentrate! Do not go gentle into the night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” I look up, the dim lights of the café burn my eyes. I look outside into the daylight, I wince in pain. I close my eyes and concentrate.
“What does it mean, Professor?” Pez repeats.
She searches for words, “I…don’t…understand. You said before, merry. Jovial. Fond of…”
“Dining with others,” he finishes, and takes an empathetic bite of his cheesecake. Oh, how delicious his bald head looks to me. I cannot fight the urge. I want to bite into his head like it’s a big slab of baloney. What is happening to me? I close my eyes again. It is easier to listen.
“So?” she asks.
“So…what does it mean?”
“I just told you.”
“Wrong, Professor. Convivial. Fond of dining with others. Think. What do zombies do?”
She strums at the table; her nails click and send shudders through my ears, the sound is so deafening.
“They are fond of eating?”
He drops his fork and it sounds as if a symbol crashed. He claps, his clapping is like thunder. “Bravo,” he says into a loud speaker. “It’s like working with chimps,” he says under his breath, but in case you haven’t been paying attention, to me it sounds as if he’s shouting into a hurricane.
“I don’t get it,” she says.
“You will. All things will fall into place once we are back at my la-BOR-atory. But first…can you be a dear and get this cheesecake to go? Waste not, want not.”
She pushes me again as she gets up. I open my eyes, the world is a blur. A day glow orange blur.
“Oops,” Pez says as he reaches into his pocket and pulls out some shades. “You’ll be needing these,” he says as he slides them over my eyes. Oh, it’s so much better. The relief is immediate…but then…I look around the room. Oh. Oh, so much tail. And on every table, jars of sugar. Imagine that. Sugar, just lying around for everyone to enjoy. I reach for my sugar bowl…but it’s empty.
Pez kicks me and it’s painful. “Listen. I have a plan, but I will need your help,” he looks over his shoulder. “When we get back to the lab, I’ll need to shoot you up with an antidote I’ve been playing around with. Nothing serious. I conjured it up between sessions of solitaire. It might work…maybe not. I’ve been a little short on test subjects. You understand, don’t you? We will have to call you Number One. First time for everything, aye?” He laughs his high pitched laugh. “Now it’s very important-“
“What’s very important?” Daggart asks. The woman has the ability to make a cardboard box filled with left over cheesecake look potentially lethal. But not…as lethal….as her breasts. So luscious, so milky white. Oh, where is some sugar? I look around the table frantically. All that’s left is a little pile of salt with ‘head’ written on it.
“It’s important, Professor Daggart, that our esteemed colleague be supplied with ample amounts of sugar before we sojourn to my la-BOR-atory. Would you mind?” he motions to a sugar bowl on a table across the café.
“What wrong with that one?” she asks.
He rattles it, “Empty. Be a dear.” He motions again for her to fetch the sugar from across the café.
She shakes her head and addresses me, “Eat what’s on the table and let’s go. Waste not, want not. Remember?”
Pez nods in approval, “She’s right you know. Now. Be a good boy and finish your lunch, and when we get back to the lab, I’ll make you an ice cream sundae. You would like that, wouldn’t you boy? Who wants ice cream?”
He reaches across the table and musses my hair and pats my head. I am a lap dog. But what did he say? Lab? He never calls his laboratory that, and twice in one day? I hold that thought as I pretend the tablespoons of salt are sugar. I stick down my tongue like a giant fly and gag immediately and look up at them with pleading eyes. Pez removes my sunglasses.
“See? He’s turning already,” he tells her as he slips the glasses back on me. I choke and gurgle as the salt parches my throat. I stumble up and she assists me to my feet.
“I would be better sleeping my way to the top,” she mutters.
“Oh? I thought,” Pez begins…but as he stands up and sees how she towers a head over him, he retracts his observations for a later time. “Never mind.”
We arrive at the lab…laboratory…somehow. I don’t recall how I got here, or why I am strapped to a gurney. Next to me is a giant, motionless man, also strapped to a table. I awaken to a heated argument.
“It always boils down to a single word, Daggart,” Pez sighs, his head buried in his hands. He is sitting at his workstation, piles of wires and graduated cylinders are scattered haphazardly across a black slate table. He is roasting a hotdog over a Bunsen burner. He offers it to her, but she declines.
“Eww. Gross. Hello? Nitrates?”
Pez nearly drops the meat thermometer upon which he has perched his dog, “How do you know about the nitrates?”
She looks confused, and then pats her pocket, “I recorded everything, Pezzolanti. Everything. I didn’t just take pictures, I saved off the spreadsheet. You are fucked. I know all about the nitrates.”
He shrugs and takes a bite of his dog, “Then you know how the proteins can be emulsified at 100 Celsius…or is it Fahrenheit? It doesn’t matter, I suppose. After all, you expect me to believe your smart phone running iOS is somehow able to run Microsoft Excel from Dr. Jones’s computer? On top of behavioral science you dabble with cross platform databases, too.”
She swipes at her phone and nonchalantly agrees, “I dabble. First dabbling I am going to do is convert this horrid mess of a lab into a *real* fucking lab.”
“La-BOR-atory,” he corrects her. “I’m sure you will…but first, I think you better be able to explain the emulsification to the committee before the Institute fast tracks you to a department head…don’t you agree?”
She ignores him and begins eyeing his experiments. “Is this the first series of zombie?” she asks, pointing to the cadaver next to me. I remember him. It’s Number Four, the Brit. A potato farmer, if I recall. Big on manners.
“Him?” he laughs. “Oh, that’s ancient history. I keep him around as a reminder of my many failures. Would you like me to boot him up?”
She again ignores him. “What’s this?” she points to a series of glowing chambers running along the far end of the lab. Laboratory.
He laughs again, “I think you should practice on telling me, Director Daggart. Wow. That does sound good, doesn’t it?”
She turns and faces him, “I don’t need to know the details, Leo. I have you.”
He winces as she addresses him by his first name. He hates being called Leo, Pez is so far from fierce…he’s two counties over from timid. I digress.
“I’ll never work under you,” he says nervously.
She sighs, “And I bet Jones never wanted to be a zombie.” She’s right. I don’t. Never have, never want to. Current circumstances are unfortunately proving otherwise, and I strain against the belts that hold me to the steel gurney. And when, exactly, is the good doctor going to provide me with my damned sundae?
“His is a story of forces beyond his control,” Pez says.
“Mmmhmm,” Pez waxes poetically. “Two years ago he hired a young, buxom assistant. Do you know to whom I refer?”
She looks at her distorted reflection in a stainless steel cabinet, “Not a clue.”
Pez clears his throat, “Yes. Clueless is how I would best describe her. All boobs, no brains. On the plus side, in the event of a zombie apocalypse, she would probably survive on that account. She offers no meal for the undead, nor a target for the living if she does turn.”
“That’s foolish,” she says, “The Institute has many doctors working on flesh eating zombies, not just brain eaters. You should know. You are the department head.”
Pez laughs, “I’m glad you can see past the titles. We live in a microcosm of politics and back biting, don’t we, Professor? And for what? For what gain? What justifies you to get out of bed and try to convince a bunch of trust fund misfits how mass hysteria is the cure to every issue that ills society?”
She shrugs, “Power?”
“Power?” he asks. His voice is filled with uncertainty, and he stumbles over the word like it’s a roadblock to the primrose path of Pezzolanti logic he was so deftly leading her down.
“Power. You said so yourself, Leo. Boil things down to a single word. That’s what I want. Fucking power.”
He laughs manically, “Eureka! We have a winner. Exactly what I was trying to explain before.”
The confusion ball lands squarely back in her court, “You were talking about power before?”
Fifteen serving love. He stumbles again. “No…” he backhands weakly. “No…the other thing. The E. F. F. word.”
He laughs again, “Yes. Not to put such a fine tip on things, but to the laymen I suppose that’s the finest tip that’s needed to cut to the core. E. F. F. Power.”
“Fucking power,” she says, and there is an edge of sexuality in her voice, almost…almost as if she is attracted to Pez.
He picks up on it immediately and falls back off his swivel chair, test tubes crash around him. He gets up and brushes himself off.
She advances towards him seductively, “Is that what this is about, Pez? Why…you should have told me sooner.” She begins unbuttoning his lab coat. He scurries off and hides behind a giant computer rack. Speaking of racks, she pouts and begins unbuttoning her lab coat. Now things are getting interesting! Now we’re talking.
“Nonsense,” Pez hisses. Again with the hissing. Dammit, Pez. Be quiet. Too late. Now Pez is talking. “In another word, I give you: Appetite.”
She purrs, “You mean ape tits?”
He is flustered, “What? Huh? Oh. Hee hee. Turd Ferguson. SNL. Lovely. No. I mean appetite. Question, Professor Daggart, what is lacking in George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead?”
She sulks and sighs, “Color?”
“Funny girl…no. Let’s go further back. Clairvius Narcisse. No…too far back. White Zombie. Sugar cane plantation. Besides gripping plot, what did that particular movie lack?”
“I don’t know…color again?”
He sighs, “Blood, Professor. It lacked blood. Blood and implied violence. George Romero, he turned things up a notch and gave us blood and guts by the bucket. Black and white blood, sure. But more importantly he delivered violence in spades. Overt violence. Yes?”
She shrugs, “I guess so, what does this have with you and me bumping uglies?” She sits up on his table and spread her legs, and dammit if I’m not sitting ringside to that view. Her back is to me.
He giggles, “Nonsense. At the time, Romero couldn’t possibly explore the full nuances of zombie…appetites. Not in the pre-internet porn free-for-all era. Neither could Francis Lawrence when he directed ‘I am Legend’ in the post internet porn era…not for the main stream blockbuster audience Hollywood caters to. Oh, no. That’s a very…charged book, by the way. Did you know that? Filled with the undead seducing the protagonist.”
She sits up and crosses her legs, “Required reading in my Zombies 101 class. Richard Matheson at his finest.”
“Ahh. Good. Then you’re familiar. We give fictional zombies an appetite for one thing only. The flesh of the living. Hello? Boring. We’re alive. The audience is alive! We have appetites. Appetites. Appetites for power, for food… for everything else. Movies portray everything except one of the greatest, most important definitions of life. The desire to procreate. The appetite…for love. We deem that pornographic, and throw it in the basement, and brain eating normal, and celebrate it on the big screen. Or worse, some lonely internet fan fiction website. Funny, yes?”
“Mmmhmm. Oh Leo, you do know your way around pillow talk, you silver tongued genius.” She reaches for him, but he ducks under her embrace like a ninja.
“Why is it there is hardly any zombie talk about the sexual appetite of zombies?” he ponders.
She sits back up with a heave and the steel table creaks forlornly, “I don’t know, fear of running into the taboo subject of necrophilia? Crossing a forbidden line?”
He laughs, “Crossing…crossing a line? Like when Romero gave us unfettered violence? Like how you crossed a moral line and bedded Jones to secure your job two years ago?”
She gets off the table and walks over to him. I don’t know if my vision is going, but his bald head is between her cleavage, and it looks like she’s a three-titted mutant. She starts poking him in the chest forcefully, “What do you care about what happens between two consenting adults? How do you even know?”
He is taken aback, “He…he. Jones came to me. He was at a loss. He didn’t want his wife to find out he was having an affair…so I…”
“So you what?” she blasts.
“So…I….took the liberty of experimentation. It’s probably there in the spreadsheets you snapped photos of…and by the way, there is no way to get any smart phone on the planet to accept Excel spreadsheets. Impossible. You’d be better off trying to raise the dead.”
He looks nervously over at me. I want to hear as much as she for him to continue his explanation.
“Well,” he stammers. “Dr. Jones was complaining of late how his wife had become…somewhat…frigid. He was ashamed that he ran into your, rather large, sorry, arms.”
He swallows hard as she glares at him, “What was I to do? Jones is a cad. And Camille put him through grad school. So I concocted a hormonal cocktail, and told him it would poison his wife. Get her out of the picture, so he could be with his new amore. But I told him to not mix it with alcohol. Back me up on that, Jones. Anyway, fool that he was…he unknowingly got her drunk on zombie juice. Which really…really, to be honest, was nothing more than a roofie on steroids. Quite literally, I might add. And now…”
Professor Daggart states the obvious, “His wife is an undead zombie that hungers for sex?”
“A bit redundant on the zombie terminology, Daggart…never mind. But yes, to put it more scientifically, his semen is her serum. So long as he, uhh, fulfills his husbandry duties…” Pez looks around nervously. “Well, come on. He could never keep his thingie in his pants. Justice is served, isn’t that right, Jones?” he winks at me.
Morbidly, I agree with him.
“So that is your theorem? Unleash sex starved zombies?” she asks.
He flashes the V’s, “Make love, not war. Right?” He walks over to the wall of giant cylinders and flips a few switches. Small round windows on the cylinders glow blue, and from within I see the faces of mutated zombies. Young zombies, former students of mine and the doctors. Failures, really. Without hope of ever becoming anything useful beyond sucking from the teat of some obscene trust fund. He flips another switch and a disco ball drops from the ceiling. From some hidden corner of his lab comes the faint singing of the Bee Gees, “Stayin’ Alive.” The corpses in the cylinders dance and thrust their pelvises suggestively at the glass portals of their stainless steel tombs.
Pez looks over at Daggart, but she yawns at the display. Dejected, he turns off the power, and the blue fades to black and the Bee Gees fade into the night singing “Ahh..ahhh.ahhh..ahh…stayin’ alive…”
She shakes her head and then notices his table full of collars. “What are these?” she asks as she picks up a collar.
“No, put that down, please. That’s an untested experiment that the government, in their infinite wisdom, chooses to ignore. The fools. Please, give me that,” he reaches for the collar but she effortlessly brushes his hand away.
“No, it’s rather lovely. What is it, Leo?”
“It’s nothing. Really. An anti-zombie collar,” he sighs. “Can I have it back now? Please?”
She laughs, “Oh, I get it. Wear this and if you become a zombie…”
He looks over at me and thumbs at her, “She gets it.” He turns back to her, “Yes. Click of a button. Boom. Off with your head.”
He walks over to my table and pulls a needle from a drawer. In plain sight he shoots me with something that burns my neck instantly. I writhe in pain and try to scream but nothing comes out.
She looks over casually, “I suppose that was something to ease his suffering?”
“You could say that. I insist you give me back the collar. It’s dangerous.”
She puts it around her neck, “I’m rather fond of danger, Leo.”
“Suit yourself,” he says. He powers up a laptop and it beeps to life. “I was thinking maybe we can catch a movie, Professor Daggart?”
She looks at the collar in the reflection of the steel cabinet again, “We haven’t even talked about my plans for power, Leo. I think you’re being rude.”
He listens to her absently, “Ironman 3 is playing at the multiplex. If we hurry, we can reach the 6pm showing.”
She pulls out her cell phone, “Shit. I’m late for spinning class. Sorry, Leo. Rain check? Besides, you’ll be seeing more of me down here sooner than you would like, I reckon.” She says that last part with an exaggerated southern accent.
“Sure. Sure. Can I have your number?” he asks her casually. “As payment for the collar, you see.”
She gives it to him, and then he types it out into his laptop. A smile creeps onto his thin lips. “Oh, Professor Daggart?”
“Your number is up!” he yells, and pounds on the keyboard.
She looks at him confused.
He holds up a hand, “Wait. What number again?”
She comes over to his swivel chair and whips him around. On his laptop is an application with red glowing letters that flash, “Destruction, unit:### 555-2029.” That’s her phone number.
“2092,” she corrects him.
He giddily starts typing it in, but she grabs the laptop from him.
“I’m just a dumb blond to you. Would a dumb blonde do this?” she screams. She hurls the laptop against the control panel to Number Four. Sparks fly from it and the room fills with the ozone stench of burning electricity. She snaps off the collar and drops it at his feet.
I shudder and blink my eyes. The orange hue of the room begins to fade. Pez tries desperately to unbuckle me from the gurney.
She knocks Pez to the floor and sits in his swivel chair between the two gurneys.
“Don’t get up,” she says and refastens my restraints and unbuttons my shirt, and makes little circles with her finger on my chest…but I feel nothing. I lay catatonic and look at her two massive sugar cubes. I look up into her eyes and I recall with wretched horror how I allowed her to seduce me two years ago. Pure Scandinavian. You know the type. Wide lips and wide hips, with enough swing in them to careen nearby objects into orbit. And that’s exactly what her blue eyes did to my sensibility, but never my heart. My heart always belonged to my wife. It always has. I feel Daggart’s hot, sweet breath on my neck…yet I feel nothing towards her. No appetite, no revulsion…nothing. Not even pity at her vapid power grab.
“Oh, Jones,” she purrs. “What a team we would have been had you not run back into your wife’s embrace.”
“I love my wife,” my words come out gravelly and earth toned, as if I’m speaking through a fan.
She stumbles back in shock, nearly knocking Number Four, the slumbering giant, off his gurney.
Pez climbs up from the floor and knocks my shades off; I squint as he shines a pen light at each of my eyes. “Huh. An antidote. Lucky you.”
He begins to unbind me, but Daggart grabs his wrists. She towers over him, and her perfume burns my nostrils. I turn my head as her big butt knocks against my ear.
“He’s fine, Daggart,” Pez squeals like a helpless school girl, but she holds on like one of the bigger girls on the school ground who bullies little school girls.
“No,” she barks. “You said so yourself, you have no antidote.”
Pez wiggles free and begins again to unbind me. “Apparently, I do. He’s fine. It’s in the eyes. Look at his, clear as day. I’m a genius, I can bring the dead back from the dead…or something. Jones, do you understand me?”
I’m still trying to digest his last statement, but nod with approval. I can manage a solitary word. “Camille?”
Pez dawdles, and my heart sinks. “Well…I mean. We’ll have to run some tests, of course. Use the go-go dancers over in the pickle jars,” he thumbs back at the row of gyrating cadavers suspended in phosphorescent greenish-blue liquid. Unfortunately, coming back from whatever living impairment I suffered of late has made me color blind. No matter.
I grab at his lab coat, “Camille? Cure?”
Just as Pez is about to answer, Professor Daggart chimes in. “No cure, Dr. Jones. None. I’m done working in the shadows of imbeciles like you two.” She shoves her smart phone in my face, “This ring a bell, Jones?”
I see only a blurry picture of computer, a fuzzy picture of a spreadsheet. Rebirth is hard on the eyes.
She stands tall before Pez and I. “I’m going to the Institute with you two jackasses. Your pecker twiddling ends today.”
Pez is astonished, “My work….p-word twiddling? Are you insane?”
“Hardly. Look. The Institute has charged me with one task. One. Create a zombie. I accomplished that months ago, with Number Four behind you there, dear colleague. You weren’t invited to the unveiling meeting. But it doesn’t matter. I’ll spare you the minutes and tell you the members of the board laughed at me. Laughed.”
He waltzes over to the sparking switchboard of his wired cadaver. He fiddles with some knobs…err, twiddles with his pecker, and Four comes to life.
I smile as I watch Daggart stumble back. First timers always do. It’s uncanny to see the dead rise, even if they’re wired to a harness, dozens of computer screens flashing flat lined vitals.
“What kind of monster have you created, Pez?” she asks, the color fading from her cheeks, her lower lip trembling.
“He’s not a monster. His name is Number Four. He’s my…well, he’s my nothing. Tell her who you are Four, introduce yourself.”
Four stands up from the table and stretches uncharacteristically, and then scratches at his belly with his giant hands.
“Four,” Pez orders. “Manners in front of the lady, please.”
“I beg to differ, guv’nor. But I don’t feel she’s fit to be called a lady,” Four says bluntly.
Daggart laughs, “Ha. The only man in the room with enough balls to speak his mind, and he’s a dead wired freak show. This is your coup de grace, Leo? You wire a corpse up, fill him with electricity, and expect the Institute to buy that you turned this hunk of meat into a living dead?” She laughs again.
“Could you do better?” Pez says, hurt in his voice. I learned never to criticize the good doctor. He will clam up, turn his back, and the next day have the most vile of solutions to whatever argument you threw at him.
She laughs even louder, the laugh of a one dimensional character in a poorly written story. “Could I do better? Give me a Speak N Spell and some hamburger meat and I’ll give you a Big Mac with a proper English accent. Cockney accented ‘zombie’? Ha!”
Pez’s eyebrows begin knitting a scarf a mile long, “Ok, first of all, he’s from the Chiltern’s. And second, Big Macs don’t have meat; they’re made of a soy derivative.” He puts his scrawny arm around my shoulder, “This is why *we* are doctors, and you are an *assistant* professor, Daggart. I uhh, I only call you Professor Daggart for fear that you will beat me up.” He shakes his bony finger at her, “But now that Four’s awake, I think we can talk about those…dreams of power.”
She rolls her eyes, “I’m not in the mood anymore, Leo. And shit me a wristwatch, look at the time! Now I missed Yoga and Dancing With the Stars. You are such a time sink, Leo.”
For once, I agree with her. I try to talk, but my throat burns, I can only nod in agreement.
Pez pulls his arm from me, “Go ahead. Laugh at the nutty doctor. Go right ahead. We’re all adults here, are we not? Jones? Are you coherent enough to agree to that?”
Oh no. I feel a sermon coming on. I acquiesce with the good doctor with a bow and curtsy.
“*Assistant* Professor Daggart. We are adults here, yes?”
She looks confused, “I guess? Don’t try to talk me out of reporting you two.”
Pez laughs his tinny, boyish laugh. “Report us? Report us? For what? I’ve fulfilled my obligations to the Institute. Behold! I give you the living dead!”
We all turn towards Four. His finger is a knuckle deep in his naval. He senses our eyes on him and pulls it out with a loud, sucking sound, “Beg pardon, guv’nor, but did you say living dead?”
“Not you, Four. Them!” He points at the five giant, glowing cylinders. “Zombies. Hungry, animated zombies.”
Daggart laughs again, “Wait. Are you serious? Are they hungry for human flesh?”
“Let me rephrase. Are they hungry to *eat* human flesh?”
She rolls her eyes, “Do they want to eat or want to fuck?”
“Guv’nor,” Four scoffs. “The language of this one is troubling to me ears, it is.”
Daggart ignores him, “Well Pez? Do they talk, too?”
Pez shifts around uneasily, “That depends on your definition of talk.”
“Hear me out,” Pez starts. “No wait…let’s hear one of them out, shall we?”
We’re in for a long night. We each follow the good doctor over to the far wall with the…go-go dancer zombies? I’m at a loss for words. Sadly, the good doctor isn’t. He’s talking a mile a minute.
“See, with my first dalliances with death…no offense, Jones. But I got the undead to not talk, and want to kill. Slow moving too…you can attest to this, yes Jones?”
Pez speaks into a small hand held recorder, “Let the record show that Dr. Jones agrees that the first subject was a close approximation of a zombie. Tell me, Daggart. What is your definition of a zombie? Be clinical, please.”
She runs her fingers through her long hair and sighs, “Slow moving, death by trauma to the brain. No talking beyond gurgling-“
She’s interrupted by a loud crash behind us. Poor ole Four was following us over, but he ran out of extension cord, and without electricity, he fell over unpowered with a loud thud.
“Is he ok?” she asks.
“He’s dead,” Pez answers. “Pain doesn’t register in zombies…or does it? Question. You’re in a barn, or a desolate home, and zombies are knocking down your door. But let’s say the door is heavily fortified. Does the zombie keep knocking?”
Oh dear, please don’t debate him. I try to warn her, but I’m unable to do anything more than croak. Not croak as in fall over dead, my throat burns terribly.
“Yes,” she answers with authority. “Of course they do.”
“Of course they do!” Pez repeats. “For how long?”
“Indefinitely if they know you’re inside. Unless they sense an easier meal on the horizon, a zombie will continue to bang on the door for an eternity. That’s why people fear them. Though dead, a zombie can, theoretically, outlive you. Outlive your food supply, your water supply, bang on the door until the inhabitants drive themselves crazy and kill each other. This is all zombie 101, Leo. I should know. I teach it. If the front door is closed, and the back door open, if the zombie approaches from the front, it will keep knocking at the front. Too brain dead to think their way around back.”
Pez pretends to contemplate, but it’s a charade. When he’s really pensive, he pulls at his eyebrows. “Mmm hmm. Mmm hmm. It’s a wonderful theory, as you said yourself, theoretical. But let’s roll the tape and see what really happens.”
We are standing beside the cylinders, the mirrored disco ball spins slowly overhead. Pez swings over a monitor on a large hinged arm, and with a remote control begins playing a video.
“First,” Pez says, “I tried a forged metal hammer for knocking experiment number three. I measured the tolerances myself. With my puny, diminutive striking power I could muster up 90 Newton’s force. But here. Watch.”
He shows us a time lapsed image of a hammer attached to a pneumatically driven robotic arm. It strikes at a metal plate. First in slow motion, then in faster motion, then at real time, until it becomes a swinging blur. A clock in the background spins in a blur, and overlaid on the monitor a blocky whit text calendar ticks off the days. Pez slows the video as the third month counts down. Then he pauses it. The head of the hammer is a flattened nub.
“So?” Daggart asks. “That’s a tool. Zombies don’t use tools.”
Pez smiles devilishly, “Precisely. Let’s roll the next tape.”
An image of a bloody severed arm appears on the screen. We watch as Pez duct tapes the arm to a ceiling fan in what appears to be his apartment. It’s a ceiling fan made of severed arms. He gets off a ladder and the fan starts wobbling around.
“Woops, wrong tape,” Pez giggles. He fast forwards to another severed arm. This one is wire tied to the same robotic arm in the hammer video. A large wooden cutting block is clamped to the table. We watch as in slow motion the arm starts pounding on the pseudo-door, over and over.
“After only 30 seconds,” Pez pauses the tape and points to the screen. “Contusions and bruising. Granted, it’s a severed arm…but more importantly, an arm with no blood flow, so I can’t account for the bruising. However, in essence, and for the sanctity of science, in all practical purposes, it models a zombie arm, yes?”
We nod in agreement.
He begins speeding up the tape. The arm bangs at the table in silence, and thankfully, in black and white. There are dark pools of blood all over the cutting block. “After only one hour,” he pauses the tape again. “Every bone is broken. But why stop there?”
He smiles at us as he stands beside the monitor and watches our faces as we react in horror to what we see. It’s indescribable beyond a single word: Pulp.
Daggart is visibly ill. Dancing corpses in metal vats didn’t make her ill before, but watching that tape of a severed arm banging itself into oblivion did. It made me ill as well.
“In theory, your zombies would turn to liquid long before you have anything to worry about,” Pez says, satisfactorily.
“Then, why, Leo…” she starts, but covers her face as she throws up in her mouth.
Pez sighs, “Find another line of work if you can’t stomach the facts. That’s a fact. In under a day you would have minced zombie, or at best, armless zombies head butting at your door. I have another tape, if you’re so inclined.”
Daggart and I violently shake our heads.
“Why?” I whisper. I look to Daggart to help me.
Thankfully, she regains her footing. “Yes, Pez. Why? Why continue on with the task of creating zombies if you knew something like this would happen?”
He looks at both of us incredulously, “The Pezzolanti Collar. I told you. Are you not aware? It’s quite the tale, you know. Anyhow…I saw the futility in creating zombies a long time ago. They are fantasies, nothing more. Sad, sorry plot devices for hack writers and blood hungry movie goers. That’s why I am giving the world these. Behold!”
He flips a switch, and the Bee Gees music thumps back to life. In time with “Stayin’ Alive” one of the zombies begins humping the metallic walls of his tomb. His face is contorted in the little portal.
“You asked before if they can talk, Daggart,” Pez says with triumph. “Let’s find out.”
He climbs a small ladder attached to the nearest vat and begins unscrewing the lid. Daggart steadies herself besides me, and as I am still woozy from having come back to life, or death…or, oh never mind. I’m surely not a sturdy resting post and she heaves herself against a lab table and takes in the show.
Pez pecker twiddles several knobs and bangs the lid off with the heel of his hand. The room fills with the faint scent of Listerine. He swings over a large arm with a crane on one end and scurries off the ladder. Manipulating a small black joystick he lowers the crane claw into the vat. Like some sick carnival vending machine, the contents of the vat slip from the grip of the claw over and over until, at last, Daggart shoves him aside.
“Here, let me try,” she says. She has more success, and with the disco ball shining, the Bee Gees singing, this barbaric scene makes me reminisce of my days on the board walk, avoiding the summer heat in the cool air conditioned arcades as muscle headed goons made vulgar remarks to anything with two legs.
No sooner do I state my memory does the zombie before us hit the ground with a sickening, slushing sound. His skin is pickled and wrinkled, black veins crisscross his pale skin and he blinks blue goop from his orange eyes. He licks at his lips as his eyes settle on the lovely Professor Daggart.
He lunges at her, but the crane acts as a harness and his feet tiptoe and lose traction, and he swings back and hits into the cylinder, ringing it like a loud steel drum. Undeterred, he runs his hands through his thick wet black mane and spins around on the crane like a child on a swing.
“Woah,” the swinging zombie says. “Looka her ova theh ova heah. You like swings, baby?”
Pez frowns, “Obviously, they still talk.”
The amorous zombie ignores him and croons, “Hey blonde, you wanna make love? Come heah, ova theh. Come heah, I wanna give you a big kiss.” He begins making sucking sounds and humping the air. That’s when I notice rigor mortis has affected only one appendage.
Pez sighs, “Randy, back into the vat if you can’t be a gentleman in front of the lady.”
The zombie makes an open fist and begins stroking in front of himself, “Hey doc, bite dis. Come heah, blonde. You wanna gentleman? Come on…one kiss.”
Pez takes the controls from Daggart, who stands mouth agape.
“No, Randy.” Pez lifts Randy off the ground and we watch as his legs flail helplessly beneath him.
“We can make it, baby. You an’ me. You know what they say, once you go zombie, you never wanna go back to livin’.” He flicks his tongue at her and continues making sucking sounds until he’s lowered into the vat of Listerine.
Pez mechanically climbs the ladder and seals him back into his liquid tomb. “Well, as you can see, there are some kinks I need to work out.”
He gets back off the ladder and brushes his hands on his lab coat, “Well?” He stands before us. Thankfully, for medical purposes, I’m speechless. Not so much for my assistant.
“Kinks? Kinks?” She begins, “It’s kinky, I like it. Shit, you got my vote, Doc.”
Wait, what? I was hoping, with resurrection, insanity would somehow be lifted from my colleagues. Surely Pez can see the error of his ways.
He doesn’t, he wraps his thin arms around her in celebration, “See, Jones? Did I not tell you? Make love, not war. In three…no…two months’ time I can have enough zombies to rule the world! I…we…we’ll be rich! Or powerful…or something. Sorry, I’ve had my nose in books for so long I don’t know what to do with such power at my fingertips.”
“You leave that to me, Leo,” Daggart purrs, stars in her eyes.
She can’t be serious. I manage a hoarse whisper, “Pez! Pez, damn you. How can you do this to me?”
Daggart looks at me and shifts her eyes, “Do… what did Leo do?”
“My…my…wife. Camille. Do you…my life is hell. Tell her Pez.”
Pez is writing notes on a clipboard, “Hmm? Huh? Oh. Camille. Yes. Kinks. I have the antidote, Jones. Remember? We’re good.”
“Where? Where is the antidote?” I ask. My heart sinking as he confirms my horrible realization.
I stagger across the lab and hold up his shattered computer, and try to yell…but can’t. I point. ‘This?’ I mouth and walk over, nearly trip over Four, who’s face down on the floor. I throw the lap top at his feet. I can only hiss my discontent. My wife. The cure for my wife, destroyed. I look around frantically for something to write with and grab the clipboard from Pez.
I write, “Cure? Backup?”
I shove it at him. He reads it. “Oh…you underestimate me, Jones. The antidote wasn’t on the hard drive. Silly. I mean I kept the antidote hidden in a small tray in the DVD drive. Didn’t you see…right. Never mind. You were quite dead this morning. Know Doze. You should be thanking me. Tsk tsk tsk.”
I’m at a loss and grab his clipboard again, “What?”
He reads it and laughs, “Know Doze. You should be more careful with your lab coat when you leave it down here. I switched out your pills for some of my…newer formula. Now Know Doze does what it’s intended to do.”
I look at him with wild eyes.
“Duh,” he says. “It kills you. Know…doze. Know death. Get it? Sugar beet derivative,” he winks at Daggart. “I thought it apropos to White Zombie…give credit where it’s due. Side effects include drowsiness, hunger for sugar, increased libido, possibly death. My own brand of zombie. Bypass Romero zombies, avoid those fast running what-have-yous. Sure, I stumbled around in the dark, Jones. Camille, Number Four…Randy.”
He comes over to me and puts his arm around me, “But you…you’re it. With you I will unleash to the masses an army of horny horrors. Writhing and gyrating and seducing the living. The world will end as it was intended, a great big ball of love. Live. Die. Love. Doesn’t get any better than that. The world of zombies as the great Richard Matheson prophesized. And yet…and yet, I’m not legend. I’m just a lonely doctor. Oh…oh poor Pez. No Camille for him. Oh, where ever will I find love now, Jones? Were this fiction, I’d die alone, unloved. Only, this isn’t fiction, is it Jones?”
His voice begins trailing out, and I try to talk, but can’t. Only my lips move, “Damn you.”
“Oh. 45 minutes,” Pez makes note of his watch. “That’s good to know. Thank you, Jones. You’ve been most helpful indeed.”
He releases me, and I fall to the ground, paralyzed.
“Camille,” I say, and my voice sounds like I’m speaking through a fan again. I laugh, and Pez looks disturbed and studies me.
“45 minutes, more or less.”
“What?” Daggart asks.
“The window in which consciousness can be returned. 45 minutes. I calculated an hour, but without motor function…why bother, yes?”
I laugh the laugh of the undead. My voice sounds metallic. I think back to my days on the boardwalk and the music of the 70s, when Rock and Roll took on Disco…”I. Am. Ironman.”
Pez juts out his lower lip, “No. You are zombie man. However, Ironman 3 plays again at the multiplex in an hour…care to join me, Daggart?”
She walks over me, and I can see at last she wears nothing underneath her miniskirt…and an impulse begins to rise within me.
“Do I have a choice?” she purrs and puts her big arm around him. He bends under the weight and giggles.
Pez stops as they walk over Four. “Watch your step. Oh, I should really plug him back in. Be a dear and help him up?”
She looks at the heap at her feet. Her legs, so supple. An hourglass figure.
“Do I have a choice?” she laughs.
Pez yanks the electric cord and plugs it in, and Four twitches slowly to life.
Daggart bends over to pick Four up, and her rear end is too much for me to resist. I rise to my feet. I want her so badly. My legs. So stiff. Stiff. So….must have her.
“On your feet, Big Boy,” she grunts and Four stands, a giant. She takes a step back, “He doesn’t…he doesn’t bite, does he?”
“Nonsense, Number Four is a gentleman. Hold out your hand, and he’ll kiss it. Go on.”
She hesitates, and then in defiance firmly holds out her hand, “You may take my hand, sir.”
Four stares at her, and back at Pez. His eye sockets filled with wires, the skin of his face pulled around his bare jaw like a turtleneck. Denuded bone and muscle, he leans over and kisses her hand gently.
She laughs, then catches herself, and laughs demurely, “You sure know how to make fucking zombies, Leo.”
With that, Four reaches out and twists her head 180 degrees. Her neck snaps softly in his massive hands, “I don’t care for your tone, missus.”
Pez rushes over as Daggart slumps to the ground, “Very good, Four. Very good indeed. How my plans fall into place.” He strains as he attempts to lift her. “She…she didn’t even know I was talking about boiling hot dogs before. Hee hee.”
“She’s got a tongue on her, this one does, guv’nor.”
“I know Four, I know. Please, help me lift her.”
“A man can only take so much, I says. Am I right?” Four helps the doctor lift Daggart to an empty gurney.
The doctor ignores me as I brush aside and straddle the corpse of Daggart. Relief. Must have…relief. I feel a burning sensation in my neck again as Pez pokes me with a needle. Consciousness comes instantly, and I scurry off Daggart, disgusted.
I grab Pez by the throat, but I feel myself lifted off the ground.
“He botherin’ you, guv’nor?”
I swing at the air behind me as I lose my grip on the good doctor.
“Let him down, Four,” Pez squeaks.
Four obliges, and I try rationality. But again, I can’t speak.
Pez brushes himself off and stares me dead in the eye, the room fading orange. “You in there, Jones?”
He answers himself, “Of course you are. I’ll send a cab for you. When you get home…well, you can do as you wish, but I humbly request you don’t try coming back. Be fruitful, and multiply.”
I watch as he injects Daggart with a needle filled with blue serum, “She and I have a date we must keep. And then off to…oh, I don’t know. Chippendales, perhaps? What is it the kids say…get this party started right? Or maybe I’ll even out my ceiling fan with her big man arms?”
“Bastard,” I mouth.
“Oh. Watch your language. Good thing Four can’t read lips. Now if you’ll excuse me, my lady awaits.”
Daggart is standing behind me, she grabs me and sniffs my neck…and then, for some unknown reason she pushes me aside and staggers toward Pez, who is only more than happy to accept her…affection.
I grab his coat and mouth, “Why?”
“An explanation isn’t necessary, is it Jones? In a word: Hmmm. I’m a necrophiliac of the worse kind. Sorry. Four, call our dear friend Dr. Jones a cab, will you please. I’d love to tell you more Jones, but as I said…it’s rude to keep a lady waiting.”
I watch as she licks his bald head and he giggles with delight.
“Oh, a zombie apocalypse we can all appreciate,” he giggles. “I do owe you a debt of gratitude, Jones. Without testing my serum on you…well. Silence is golden. Isn’t it?”
I grab at my throat.
“45 minutes, Jones. More or less.”
I push past the doctor and stumble up the stairs, and with each step I take I feel my life ebbing from me, the doctor’s maniacal laugh fades further and further away. I manage to make it to my car, and fumble with my keys. My fine motor function is practically nonexistent. The night is young. I must make it home before Camille…
“Dr. Jones?” a dulcet voice asks from behind me. I close my eyes, and peak behind me. Dammit, yoga pants.
“Are you OK?” she asks. I smell her perfume, and close my eyes tight with every ounce of my being. I kick at my keys. My knees have begun to lock up.
“Can I help you?” she asks. One of my star pupils. I hear her pick up my keys as she opens the door to my Mercedes, I slip behind the wheel.
She reaches into the car, “Here, let me get that for you.”
I open my eyes briefly and close them again as I see cleavage. She buckles me in and puts the keys in the ignition for me. I fight with every ounce of my being to reach out and grab her.
“You shouldn’t work so hard, Dr. Jones.”
I thank her with a wave and drive away with the door open, pedal to the metal.
The drive home is an orange blur. When I arrive, the front door leading up to my apartment is locked. I break down the door effortlessly and fly up the stairs. Our young neighbor is struggling with packages. She is always struggling. Oh, I want her so. No. Camille. My love.
“Oh, hello Dr. Jones,” she says playfully. She steps in close, and I will my eyes shut. “I…well. I’ve been meaning to bring this up for weeks now. Hmm, this is awkward, but the walls are thin between our homes, no?”
My hand shakes as I try to get my keys in the door. I stand there and shudder uncontrollably. My neighbor coos, “Are you OK, Dr. Jones…here, let me help.”
I am ever thankful. And storm into my apartment, leaving the door open. I look at my watch; nearly an hour has gone by. Ha! Could it be? Pezzolanti and his pseudo-science. Hallucinogens. Nothing more, nothing less. A few throat lozenges, a little tea and I’ll be fine.
I put on a kettle and take off my shoes and…no. No. This cannot be! Camille, oh Camille. What have I done? My fingers begin to tingle, and the sensation rushes up my arms and down my toes. Like a stuntman in a cowboy flick, I bounce off the walls and fall to the ground in the hallway.
Camille. I crawl to her. She is writhing violently in the bed and gurgling against the ball gag. I tremble as I crawl up the bed, undoing her restraints and with my last, fleeting bits of sanity undo the ball gag and try to mount my wife. I wait in angst for her to bite into my flesh…but it doesn’t come…and…neither do I.
She climbs out of bed and with ferocity she becomes what Pezzolanti called his biggest failure: A stumbling, silent zombie hell bent on devouring the flesh of the living. Not I. Not I. I care only for the pert girl on the other side of my bedroom wall. The front door might be open, but I don’t care. The fastest solution is a straight line. I stand at attention and pound at the wall…again, and again, and again.