Friday the 13th is International Zombie Day. When it comes to shamblers, there’s no dead
like Fred. Author Adam Sifre a/k/a Splinker, is quite insistent about that. I’m posting the first
chapter of “I’ve Been Deader,” a near perfect blend of horror and comedy. Enjoy!
Fred’s ruined face stared back at him from a fractured, mold-spotted mirror. There was no
denying that he’d seen better days. The remains of breakfast pooled around his feet and a pair of
lace panties clung to his shoe, glued there by God knew what. Bits of flesh were stuck between
his yellow teeth, along with the sodden remains of a “hand wash only” label. Being a zombie
was no picnic.
He wiped his gore-stained hands on a filthy shirt, not sure if was cleaning the hands or
the shirt. He felt compelled to pause and take stock of himself. His right eye, now more crater
than ball, looked like a crushed egg yolk. His left leg was broken in at least two places. A large
splinter of bone poked through the skin above his thigh, fine dark lines etched across the surface
like a bad piece of scrimshaw. The open wound on his neck had started leaking again, but at least
the fluid was mostly clear now.
No use dwelling on negatives. Time to get to work. He turned away from his reflection
and limped out of the men’s room of the Vince Lombardi rest area.
An overly bright morning sun assaulted him as he stepped outside. Fred gave a mental
wince, wishing again that he could blink. Sunlight had no adverse effect on the undead, but
he had never been a morning person. Today he had to shamble over to Terminal C of Newark
Airport, where eight breathers were making their last stand. Zombies were lone hunters and
rarely worked together. Every so often, however, a kind of collective broadcast signal went out
over the undead grapevine, announcing the newest brain buffet — in a shopping mall, a church,
or an airport – with satisfyingly predictable results.
Dozens were already making their way down the New Jersey turnpike. By their
mindless, “movie” slow pace, he knew they hadn’t fed. Zombies weren’t exactly Jesse Owens on
the best of days, but they tended to move a lot faster with a little brain in the old furnace.
If Fred could breathe, he would have sighed. It looked like hundreds of zombies would
be fighting over eight brains and assorted bits. Assuming the breathers were able to take out 10
to 20% of the attacking hoard before being overwhelmed, that still left about ten zombies per
breather. With luck, however, he would still be the brainiac of the pack by the time he got there.
Having one’s wits about it gave a zombie an edge in the hunt. Depending on the specific virus
strain or whatever it was that put the mojo in their mortified flesh, some undead could reason and
even remember who they were as breathers. So far Fred hadn’t come across any other “thinkers,”
as he called himself, but he couldn’t imagine he was the only one.
By mid-afternoon, he found himself actually enjoying his walk down the turnpike. Most
of the fires had burned themselves out and although the air still reeked of burning gasoline, the
skies were relatively smoke-free. Even a walking corpse could appreciate a warm, spring day
like this one. Fred pulled his lips up in what should have been a grin.
Death, ruin and destruction improved the New Jersey Turnpike.
Not that there wasn’t a black lining to be found around his own little rainbow of a life.
Most of the zombies were a few hundred yards down the road, but two lesser undead doggedly
tagged alongside of Fred, putting a bit of a damper on things. The virus left them as nothing
more than, well, nothing more than zombies. They were about as interesting as slugs and moaned
so much that, were Fred alive, he’d be sporting a hell of a migraine.
All in all, however, the day was turning out quite well. He could almost convince himself
being undead wasn’t so bad. Sure, it was bad luck that he was 45 years old with a rather large
potbelly when he had been bitten by that damned clerk. Being cursed to wander the earth in
search of brains was bad enough, but why couldn’t it have happened when he was twenty years
younger and thirty pounds lighter?
He was imagining wandering the earth in search of fresh brains as a slimmer, sleeker and
younger Fred, when the head of the zombie on his left exploded.
Shit. He limped over to an abandoned Ford Explorer and crouched down, scanning
the area for the source of the ambush. The other walking corpse stopped and stared vacantly,
a low “Braaaaiiiinnnnsss?” emitting from its drooling mouth. Fred felt a sense of relief when a
bullet took the second one through its right eye. Those two had just about gotten on his last dead
A glint of light in the tall grass by a pond off the side of the road revealed the breather’s
position. It looked like there was only the one.
The lone gunman on the grassy shoal, Fred thought, mentally smiling.
He stood up from behind the Explorer, pointed at the area where the gunman was hidden,
made the undead scream of discovery – then ducked back down behind the SUV and waited.
Several zombies with lesser survival instincts turned off the road and converged on the field. A
bullet dropped another one and Fred saw a figure pop up from the tall grass and start running. A
collective moan escaped from the zombies and they began to shuffle a little faster. But unless the
breather tripped, broke both legs and fell asleep, he’d be fine — for now.
Fred got up and started limping toward Exit 14. It would be another hour or so before he
reached the airport. Most of the zombies were still on the road. After taking into account the ones
that had left to chase the gunman and Fred’s two undead groupies – now just dead — he figured
there would be plenty of brains for everyone when they got there. Fred was… well, he was — I’m
happy! As he shambled down the turnpike, he began humming a song that was popular before
he was turned. In his mind, it was a happy, catchy tune. But when he hummed it, it sounded a lot
like “Braaiinnss . . .”
SO ENDETH CHAPTER ONE
If you like what you read or just have some spare change lying around, you can
download “I’ve Been Deader” here: http://tinyurl.com/Shambler