The idea for this short story started out as a random thread on Facebook where I was challenged to write a story about none other than Zombies. Readers be warned. A shout out to Lauri and Neils who are egging me on.
The smell had become unbearable, sickly sweet with a hint of barbeque and just a touch of rot. Oh, who are we kidding, mostly rot. I tapped the side of the Anomalous Field Detector, or AFD, hoping to get a reading so I could collect some samples and get out of this place. It’s not that I dislike graveyards, but considering the circumstances, I’d rather be anywhere else. A locked down bomb shelter with food and a computer sounds better by the minute.
The zombie invasion came as a big surprise to our whole town. Most thought it was a joke by the local high school, at first. That soon changed after people started turning up mutilated and dismembered. Then, there were the ones who were changed, who somehow got the venom in their system. These were the ones I felt the worst for, I mean it’s one thing to die a hideous death. It’s completely another to not quite die and be forced to live an eternity walking the earth, waiting for your next bite.
The air hung hangs heavy and dank in the night, the smell makes bile rise in my throat. Twigs snap under my feet and I can’t help but imagine dried out fingers and toes. The thought puts my hair on end. Times like these make me think my mother was right about a mainstream career, anything but a viral toxicologist.
The AFD pings, sounding too loud in the dark. It points ahead and left 50 meters. I switch it off, can’t risk letting them know there’s a snack nearby. Without the light of the detector’s display my eyes adjust to the dim light. The moon, hidden behind a thin veil of clouds, turns the landscape into a dull palette of grays and shadow. Off in the distance where the detector has directed, I see a figure shamble along. He’s missing an arm and is dressed in a dark tattered uniform that reminds me of old civil war pictures.
I ready the catch pole, loosening the noose and twisting the pole to extend it, then checking each joint making sure it’s tight. Test tubes and syringes are lined up in a special pocket in the lining of my jacket. Although I know it doesn’t make a difference, I don latex gloves and lower my face shield. Protocol has to be followed.
He shambles across my line of vision, step, drag, step, drag. I wait until he has passed further, so I can approach him from behind. In a low run I follow, pole held in front and zeroed in on his head, aimed for a quick take down. I’m about twenty feet away when he drops and disappears from view with a burst of blue light.
I curse and stumble back in surprise. Where did the devil go? He has to be somewhere. I switch on the AFD once again and sweep the area, the last thing I need is a surprise. The fellow I just saw should show up, no one disappears like that. There is always a reason.
Nothing shows up on the AFD. I smack the side of it, stupid university tools were always on the fritz. He has to be somewhere close. I keep walking toward where he disappeared, studying the ground. His trail in the damp grass is clear, I can see where he’s dragged his left leg. Ahead, lies an open grave. Knowing that he didn’t simply disappear is a relief. The thought of him falling into a grave is oddly ironic and I find myself giggling.
I look over the side of the hole expecting to find a frustrated tangled mess of zombie. There is nothing there. I mean that quite literally, where there should have been dirt and rocks there is only a dark unfathomable expanse. I drop a small rock over the side and watch it vanish with a flash of blue light.
I had only read of such phenomenon in the texts of conspiracy books. Portals aren’t supposed to exist, not in the real world. The AFD bleeped to life showing dozens of readings around the periphery of the clearing. Deep in my gut I knew. They weren’t coming for me, they were going home.