Well, I don't actually consider it a REAL "short story," because in my mind, short stories either A) have a shocking twist ending/surprise reveal, B) have a ringing moral message, or C) make you think deeply/make you sad.
My story does none of these things. It's just something that bubbled up from the depths of my mug full of tea.
And before you ask,
YES I have heard of The Walking Dead,
NO I haven't watched it, and
NO I'm not going to.
Everything I've heard about it makes it sound depressing and annoying and frustrating. So no. Also, I'm actually not a huge fan of zombies. They're gross, and they freak me out. Maybe it has something to do with being traumatized by Scooby Doo on Zombie Island when I was young, but it's a moot point. I'm not watching The Walking Dead. So, sorry to the fans of the show. X)
Now, after telling you how much I dislike zombies; my zombie-fighting story! (I make so much sense.)
“The brain is the thing with zombies, right?”
“Right. . . .” Ro drew out the word like he was waiting for me to drop the whole idea. He was not impressed with my plan, I knew. I charged on.
“So, we don’t need to wait for the serum to work its way through their systems, we just need to get it to touch their tongues. As soon as they taste it, it will cause the chemical reaction in their brains that we’re looking for. Theoretically, they should change instantly!”
“Theoretically.” Ro’s voice was flat. I expelled a breath and grabbed his shoulders in a display of frantic glee.
“Don’t you see? This could be our chance! Our one shot at saving the world.” I sobered a bit and slapped the side of his arm, “Our one chance at survival.”
I walked over to the rusty metal cart where rested my invention. Two clear canisters full of a thick blue liquid glistened in the dim half-light. My serum. Attached to each canister via some salvaged medical tubing were two childrens water guns. It wasn't pretty, it wasn't cool, but it just might save everyone.
Ro made his way around piles of rubble and broken junk, as well as a towering pile of empty squirt guns and other squirty paraphernalia, the dull ring of old metal sounding with each bootstep. “Nadia, there’s hundreds of thousands of zombies out there. Even if this works, you won’t have enough!”
“No?” I couldn't help but give him a mischievous smile. Man, did it feel good to smile. I fairly ran over to the nearest cabinet and threw it open, pulling out the drawer inside. It was packed with similar canisters, all full of my glorious blue concoction. Well, glorious if it worked.
Ro stared. I pushed the drawer back in and latched the cabinet. “You see? And that’s not all. They’re all full!” I spun around with my arms open, indicating the dozens of drawers around us, feeling a little like Belle in a library.
“You stored all your zombie-curing serum . . . in a morgue.” Ro rubbed his face.
“Well, yeah. All the zombies are gone, and anyway, they don’t have enough fine motor skills to open these dead-people-drawer doors.” I hoped.
“Dead-people-drawer doors?” the first hint of amusement I’d ever seen Ro show appeared on his face. “You’re the smart one; shouldn't you know the proper name for them?”
“I’m a scientist, not an English professor. Or a mortician.” I picked up one of my creations and slipped the attached straps over my shoulders like it was a backpack. I held a squirt gun in each hand. “Come on, Ro.” I smiled again, loving the feeling it gave me, “Who ya gonna call?”
Ro muttered something that sounded like, “Hopeless,” but went and strapped on his own gadget. “Tell me again why we don’t just kill them?”
I shot him a dark look, more annoyed than angry, “Because, Ro, not all zombies were dead to begin with. A great amount of them are just bite victims, or living people infected with the virus. Since we can’t tell which is which, we’re going to save all of them. The dead will go back to being dead, and the living will go back to being alive.”
Ro raised his eyebrows, “Theoretically.”
I huffed, “Yes. Theoretically.”
“And if it doesn't work?”
“Then we die.”
Ro nodded and held his squirt guns up at shoulder height. “Well then. What are we waiting for?”
We crept the hospital corridors cautiously, looking for our first zombie. There hadn’t been any when we first used the hospital for refuge, but zombies were always on the prowl, and we’d been here longer than most people would have considered safe. Sensible people would have moved on a week or two back. But we were turning the tables. For once, we were the hunters.
Then I heard one, its shuffling shamble knocking through the debris of the half-destroyed building. It was joined by a second zombie, this one’s gait making less noise. A child, maybe? Or maybe just half a body, dragging itself along.
We pressed our backs to the wall, waiting to see if they would come around the corner on their own, or if we would have to lure them over with some noise.
“We shouldn't wait,” Ro breathed in my ear, “There could be more. We should get them while they’re isolated.”
I nodded slowly, fear and adrenaline flooding my veins, as it always did when the undead were near.
Before we could step out and face them, the quieter shuffling came closer and closer, until it was at our feet. We looked down and were shocked to see a baby. A zombie, yes, but a baby. My heart ached suddenly. Had it died an infant, or had it been attacked? A tragedy either way.
The baby looked up at us in the curious way babies do, though the rotting flesh and blood drying on its face made it decidedly less cute. It crawled toward us, determined to bite our legs.
Ro nudged me, and I shrugged. As it opened its mouth to chomp, I stepped back and raised my squirt gun, spritzing a little stream of serum onto its tongue.
The baby froze, and so did we. Would it work?
Suddenly the baby began coughing, and its arms collapsed from under it. It began shivering and breathing rapidly, and my heart went out to the little thing. Please work. Please be alive, baby.
Then the baby went very, very still. I could feel Ro holding his breath behind me, and realized I was holding mine. We both released it in a rush of awe when we saw the change come over the infant.
It’s grey-green skin—falling off his body in most places—rejoined with the tendons, muscles and bones, and brightened to a lovely pale pink, the color of a healthy baby. The brittle hair hanging from his head in patches fell off and was replaced by fluffy golden curls. He looked up at us, and his milky, glazed eyes cleared and turned to a bright green.
Before us sat a chubby, healthy baby boy. A little dirty, perhaps, but alive. I gasped out a disbelieving laugh. “It worked.” I spun to grab hold of Ro, “It worked!”
The baby started crying, and Ro and I looked at each other with eyes wide in wonder, silently agreeing it was the best sound we’d ever heard.
Ro reached down and picked up the infant, turning to me with the biggest smile I’d seen in years, “You did it!” he laughed, and I changed my mind. That was the best sound I’d ever heard. He spun around once with the baby in a rare and beautiful display of joy. He stopped on a dime and faced me again, puzzled, “But how?”
I could only shrug in giddy relief and surrender, a smile splitting my face in two, “I think it has less to do with science and more to do with miracles than we might like to believe.”
So distracted were we by our success, we forgot about the second zombie until she popped around the corner and roared in our faces. Almost by reflex, my closest gun arm flew up and pulled the trigger. But instead of the bullets and arrows I’d been firing at her kind for the past few years, a stream of serum entered her mouth.
She coughed, collapsed, shivered, shuddered, repeating all the same symptoms we’d seen in the baby, which I suspected was her son. Even a zombie disease couldn’t overcome maternal instinct. When she unfolded herself from the floor where she’d fallen, I helped her stand.
“W-where am I?” she was confused, “How did I get here?” Then she saw the boy in Ro’s arms, and I could see panic start to flood her features, “David—!”
I held up a calming hand, letting the gun dangle on its tube. “David is fine. He’s your son, I assume?” When she nodded, I indicated Ro should hand the baby over. He did, with a smidgen of reluctance. Or maybe that was just my imagination.
The mother cradled her son, and I quizzed her, “What’s your name?”
“Do you remember the zombie outbreak, Mary?”
Mary trembled and clutched her child tightly to her, who cooed, calmed now that he was in his mother’s arms. “Yes,” she said. The way her eyes darted to and fro, I could tell that memories were returning to her as she came out of her dazed state, “The zombies . . . we had no warning. The swarmed our house.” Suddenly she winced and touched a hand to her leg, where I assumed she’d been bitten.
This could be important. “May I see?” When she assented, I checked her thigh. It wasn't hard, considering her clothes were little more than rags. There was a faint circular scar where she’d been bitten, but it was clean and pink. No sign of infection, no sign of danger. She was cured.
I straightened, “Well Mary, you were a zombie, but,” I raised my squirt gun and grinned like a goof. I couldn't help it. “Not anymore!”
“Look,” Ro told the bewildered mother, “Head down to the morgue. It’s where we keep the serum. You can stay there with your baby until it’s safe, or you can grab a squirt gun full of the stuff and head for home. Either way, you should go down there first.”
“Ok.” Mary nodded half-frantically, then looked from her baby to us. “Thank you.” She whispered, tears trickling down her grimy face.
I acknowledged her thanks with a smile and a dip of my head while Ro raised a hand in a brief farewell.
We watched her leave, then I turned to Ro, excitement and empowerment welling up inside me. “Let’s go save the world.”
“For Mary and David,” Ro raised one of his plastic guns.
“And everyone like them.” I raised one of mine in turn, and we touched them together, a toast to the world we would restore. Then we ran off into the darkness in search of people to save.
Well, there it is, in all it's shortness and glory. :)
Also, I just made Ro and Nadia up on the spot as I typed, but I'm already shipping them hardcore, believe you me. That's right. I said shipping. XD