Tried and Tested – A Zombie short story
This is a short story I wrote for the SFX zombie story competition – the only rules were that it must feature Christmas lights as a prop and a zombie in a Santa suit, and be up to 1500 words in length. I did not win or even feature as a runner up – having read the winner I can see why! Very well written (although I think mine was more original in storyline), far more eloquent than mine. Judge for yourself; here is my failed entry!
“Another crisis, Jamie? Too many more of those and we will ALL lose!”
“Fuck off, Robin. Not my fault.”
“Yeah, Robin, it’s the cards. You shuffled!”
“Who asked you, dickwad?”
“Screw you, Mary-Jane!”
“ONE TIME I smoked… ONE TIME! Stop calling me that.”
“Now now, children,” Alex, the group’s natural leader by virtue of slapping them all one by one until they agreed, spoke up before things got ‘handy’. “And MJ, it was not once…”
An almighty crash from somewhere beneath their feet shut them up. Looking at each other, they stood and turned towards the hatch. A sturdy hatch, they had thought; solid, dependable, lockable from their side only. A dark thick wooden barrier between themselves and what lay below.
“STOP CALLING ME THAT!”
“Okay, Max, you removed the clipboard from the reach of the subjects, right?”
“Yes I did, Alex! At least… I think I did.”
Robin, Jamie and Alex all looked at Max, united in sardonic eyebrow-raising and simultaneous sighs of resignation.
“It is possible I may not have done…”
“For fuck’s sake, Max! What the …. never mind, one of us will have to go down there and get it.” Alex looked toward Robin and Jamie. “Obviously it’s not going to be ‘The Great British Baked Off’ here so who was next on the roster? Check the list, Jamie.”
Max bristled as Jamie walked to the desk which contained Star
Wars/Star Trek figures (cause of many a lively debate), Buffy calendar and many, many DVDs featuring all manner of costumed characters. Shifting aside piles of graphic novels Jamie located the laptop detailing their findings and the work rota. “S’me, apparently. Wish me luck, I’m going in!”
“Here.” Robin tossed over the cricket bat each took with them when they visited the cellar. “Stay safe!”
“Well I was planning on having my brains eaten but since you ask so nicely…” Jamie picked up the filleting knife from the selection of weaponry they kept on a sterile steel tray beside the hatch. Just in case. “If I’m not back in 10…”
“Yeah, yeah,” Robin, Alex and Max returned to the game even before Jamie had lifted the hatch. “Hey, do NOT take a turn till I get back!”
“Okay.” Robin turned over the first card and picked up the dice.
Sighing, Jamie turned towards the wooden steps which led from the warmth of the room they occupied towards a deepening blackness. The hatch was lit by Christmas lights they had strung around the hole. As Jamie moved below ground the lights swung, gusted by the breeze from the ventilation shafts dotted long the broad corridor. Three rooms led off the corridor on either side; spare, small cells each containing one zombie. Flicking a switch more Christmas lights flickered on, lighting the corridor down either side. Once again Jamie breathed a sigh of relief that they had not opted for the type which flashed and sparkled in patterns as Max had suggested. They were on a strict budget for this experiment and there was such a thing as too much. Plus they would be nice to use as decoration once this was done.
“Which one did you leave the clipboard loose in?” Jamie shouted up to Max.
“Far left, furthest from the stairs. I think.”
“Kerrist-on-a-bike!” Jamie once again felt that rising anger that Max inspired in so many people. No other way around it, each cell would have to be checked. Good job Max was mostly harmless otherwise one of these cells might gain a new occupant.
Jamie lowered the viewing hatch to the cell on the far left, reasoning that it would make sense to at least start with the room Max believed might have been the place the clipboard was left. Scanning around the room through the chicken wire the group had modified each hatch with to avoid attacks on hair, clothing, noses and ears by the putrifying barely-by-now animated corpses that were their charges, it was clear that no clipboard was lying unattended in this room.
Jamie quickly scanned the clipboard hanging by the hatch to check Max had entered the relevant data from the latest visit, verifying it had been correctly and completely filled out. Good, Alex would not be required to administer discipline. Jamie let a small smile creep out. Disciplining tended to embarrass all involved and occasionally the clean-up got a bit too sticky. Some stains were impossible to get out.
The next two cells also proved the clipboards were both correctly hung and documented. Crash! Jamie’s heart leapt violently, beating at what felt like ten times the normal rate. A flush moved rapidly up and down limbs shaking with nerves. Not terror, just nerves. That’s only natural. Jamie shook the nerves away and stepped toward the cell from which the frightful scraping of metal and wood on wall had emanated.
A groan arose from the shifting, amorphous mass of what had once been human. Now it resembled only a collection of rotting flesh, sliding and slipping south from limbs which could no longer retain cohesion. Globs of phlegm-like substance dripped viscous organs down the red suit in which they had clothed the zombie. A felt-made bright red Santa suit, ironically cheerful, identified this particular subject. Others wore different fabrics; a leather biker’s outfit, a full rubber gimp suit, silk formal gown covering their sole female subject, and a nylon tracksuit which was highly flammable so the fire extinguisher was kept near that subject’s cell. The final, naked, zombie provided the control test subject for their experiment: “How Material Affected The Decaying Process of the Undead”.
“Shit. Alex, chuck me down the keys for cell 3.” Jamie yelled up through the hatch, dodging the hunk of clinking metal as they came flying downwards. “Watch my face, will ya?!”
“You have nothing to worry about, you too ugly for it to matter!” Wanker, Jamie thought, not for the first time.
Opening the cell Jamie peered around in the dim light to locate the clipboard, keeping both bat and knife to hand. Santa stood, and shuffled towards the door, a flicker of light in his eyes suggesting a sense of sentience Jamie knew wasn’t actually there. That’s what they had been told. All subjects were dead. They shuffled, bit, and groaned a lot but did not speak or think. You could not kill what was already dead. They had no life, no rights, no humanity. The work the group was doing was vital in protecting the living and how zombies would contribute.
Jamie moved towards the clipboard, careful to face Santa at all times and noting the binds still held him out of reach of the door. For a brief second Santa was out of eye-line as Jamie leaned to pick up the clipboard. Swiftly a hand jerked Jamie’s head violently backwards. Slobbery saliva dripped onto hair. No, not saliva. Cheeks. Actual cheeks. Jamie screamed in disgust and horror and turned quickly, raising the bat to bring it down hard on Santa’s head.
Blood flew, coating the walls. Flesh ripped from the limbs, unrecognisable from rotten meat, covering Jamie, the tray, the bat. Slashing with the knife, Santa’s torso took the full force of Jamie’s fear. Hacking at Santa’s neck Jamie thanked every God there is and many there aren’t that Santa was a fiction and Christmas could still be the fun time of distant memory. Eventually the head rolled from crunching bone and the grabbing, snatching, dripping and gore stopped. Jamie panted with the exertion, fear and adrenaline still coursing.
Returning to the room above, Jamie reluctantly announced: “We lost a subject.”
“Crap. Can we get another? Will it ruin our results? What will The Kraken say?” Max’s mind ran through all worst case scenarios.
“Thanks for your concern, Max. I wasn’t bitten, don’t worry. I’ll get a tetanus shot tomorrow.” There was just no support in this group, no concern for welfare, Jamie thought, angrily buzzing with adrenaline from the fight.
“We’ll fail science now! The Kraken will never pass us!” Robin panicked. If they didn’t pass this none of them would graduate from school, let alone get good university places.
“Stop worrying! We still have the control, there’s only three weeks left, it’ll be fine.”
They heard a voice calling down to them and they froze.
“Girls, dinner time. Wash your hands and get up here!” Alex’s mum.”You can finish your zombie experiment later”.
The girls rose and groaned as they shuffled towards the door.