The Zombie of George Romero clambered out of its coffin and stood peering blearily around.
“Can’t see a damned thing without my glasses,” it mumbled to itself. “Where are my damned glasses?” Bending, it began hunting around with its hands, but it didn’t find the glasses, and no wonder, because they’d been purloined by a crazed souvenir hunter who’d long since auctioned it on eBay. At that moment the spectacles were somewhere in the depths of Darkest Australia, in the possession of a crocodile wrangler who used them to frighten the animals into submission.
“This is a pretty mess,” the Zombie of George Romero mumbled, as well as a corpse can mumble. “How the hell am I supposed to go through undeath without seeing where I’m going?”
Still muttering balefully, it wandered out of the mortician’s parlour. It was midnight, so there wasn’t anyone on the premises, but the downside was that the door was locked. But the Zombie of George Romero wasn’t a zombie for nothing, so it broke its way out at the cost of only a few broken bones in one arm.
“Now,” it wondered, as it stumbled down the pavement, staggering a little because its dead muscle fibres didn’t contract so well anymore, “just what on earth am I supposed to do? Where am I going anyway?”
This was a serious problem, which took a lot of cogitation. The zombie’s brain had suffered the effects of dying, of course, and hadn’t come intact back from the dead. Huge chunks of memory were missing.
“I’ll just go along like this for the moment,” the Zombie thought, finally, “and see what happens.”
It was a cold night, and rain began falling. Since the Zombie of George Romero no longer had a functioning heart or flowing blood, it began to get chilled. “Must get warm,” it thought, and at that moment saw a supermarket which was still open.
“Bright lights,” it mumbled to itself. “Maybe it will be warm in there.” By now its legs were so cold that it couldn’t move them even as well as it was earlier, and was in danger of falling on its face. So it held its arms stiffly forward to try and balance, and staggered towards the blur of red, white and blue light.
The supermarket was almost empty at this time of night, and the clerk at the check-out desk was surfing porn on his mobile phone when a shadow fell across his counter. Annoyed at the interruption, and also worried in case it was some family-values type who had caught a glimpse of the screen, he put the phone into his pocket before he looked up.
“What can I do for –“ he began, trying to stretch his lips into a smile – of course, only the minimum, standard smile the store management demanded of its employees. “For you,” he finished foolishly, the smile freezing in place, well short of the standard minimum.
Across the counter stood an apparition, slack-jawed, bleary-eyed, dressed in a corpse’s burial suit. Its jaw hung open, and it moaned as it staggered. With its stretched out arms, it pawed across the counter at the clerk.
The clerk screamed. Desperately, pushing his chair back from the desk, he tried to get up, but the space was so small that in his panic he couldn’t. Goggle-eyed, he glared up at the thing across the counter, gasping for breath.
The Zombie of George Romero was astonished. It had merely meant to ask the clerk if it was OK for it to rest a while and warm itself. When it had tried to talk, however, it had found that its dead diaphragm couldn’t move well enough to push air out of its lungs to speak. So it could only moan helplessly.
“Are you all right?” it tried to ask, but it just came out as another moan. The clerk didn’t look all right. In fact, he looked pretty damned bad, even to the Zombie’s myopic eyes. The Zombie tried to move closer to the counter, and its legs almost collapsed under it with the effort. Only with a quick grab at the edge of the desk did it manage to stop itself from falling.
“Sorry,” the Zombie apologised. “I’m still getting used to –“
The clerk interrupted with a hoarse scream. He began screaming louder and louder, until it began to get on the Zombie’s dead nerves. Turning away, it began wandering towards the back of the supermarket, wandering through the aisles of produce looking for someone else to ask. But the bright lights and the shiny surfaces were confusing to its myopic eyes, and it couldn’t really see a thing.
It had turned back towards the front of the store when it was suddenly confronted by the clerk. In his hands, the man hefted a baseball bat, and took a wild swing.
“Hey, you know,” the Zombie of George Romero protested, “this kind of thing won’t do at all.” Fortunately, it had stumbled at the exact moment the bat had swung at its head, so that it had escaped unscathed. “I haven’t done anything to you.”
The clerk didn’t seem moved by this protestation. He’d already set himself to take another swing. The Zombie of George Romero reluctantly decided that it might be time to take steps to protect itself. Pivoting awkwardly, it swung a hand at the clerk. It caught the man a glancing blow just above the elbow.
The results exceeded all expectations. Howling in terror, the clerk threw down the bat and jumped back, colliding with display of breakfast cereal boxes. The cereal and the clerk collapsed in a heap.
The Zombie of George Romero decided to leave while the leaving was good. It had warmed itself up with the exertion, and was able to move more easily, so it made its way to the exit. As it left the store, a couple of wild-eyed young men were coming in. The Zombie of George Romero stood aside politely to let them in.
His politeness had no more effect than his protests earlier. One of the two men had been in the act of pulling a stocking mask over his face, but paused, his eyes bulging. “Grawp!” he gasped.
“What?” The other man was in the act of pulling a gun from his jacket pocket, but stopped, his eyes bulging too. “Zombie!” he said.
“Shoot it!” The first man yelled, pawing desperately at his own pocket. “Shoot it now!”
The Zombie of George Romero was growing distinctly annoyed. Everyone seemed to have it in for it, no matter what it did. After all, it hadn’t asked to become a zombie, had it? Irritated, it stepped forward and shoved the first man in the chest. It wasn’t a hard push, but the man, off-balance, fell on the second. There was a muffled gunshot. The first man fell writhing to the ground, flopped about for a little while, and stopped writhing.
“Oh my god,” the second young man yelled at the Zombie of George Romero. “He’s dead. Look what you made me do!”
The Zombie of George Romero was, of course, not the personal deity of the second young man – now the only young man. Nor had it the slightest desire to be the personal deity of anyone. But it had no opportunity to tell the man so, because he was pointing his gun at the Zombie and trying to shoot it. It was, again, only the Zombie’s instability on its legs that saved it – it staggered and stumbled erratically, and the young man’s shots went wide.
Distant, but closing rapidly, there were sirens approaching. It seemed the police would be there soon. The young man glared around and took off at a run, pausing only long enough to squeeze off one final shot at the Zombie. The bullet crashed into the wall by its head.
Once again, the Zombie of George Romero had to walk off down the street in the cold. By now, however, it had learned to be a little more careful, and had also gained some amount of co-ordination over its limbs. Staying in the shadows, it ducked down the first dark alley it found, and then down another. Soon it had left the sirens far behind.
After a while, it began to feel cold again. So, choosing a spot behind a dumpster, it settled down to rest.
“Look at this!” someone’s foot poked the Zombie of George Romero in the chest. “Wake up, you!”
The Zombie had, of course, not been sleeping, because being undead it didn’t have the ability to sleep. It had, however, kept its eyes closed in order to protect them from the weather.
“What do you want?” it asked, sitting up. The moon had come up in the meantime, and enough light came into the alley for even its dim eyes to be able to see something of the four people standing over it. The first one had drawn back a foot for another kick, but now paused.
“You’re a zombie?”
The Zombie of George Romero was inclined to deny it. Its experiences earlier had filled it with a vague suspicion that a zombie wasn’t a very popular thing to be. However, two things made it pause a moment.
The first was that the people could apparently understand what it had said. This was the first time anyone had, after its undeath. The second was that, looking up at them, it saw that they, too, held out their arms stiffly and that their jaws sagged open, like its own.
“Yes,” it admitted. “I’m a zombie.” It climbed awkwardly to its feet. “Are you all together?”
“Well,” the zombie which had kicked it said, “we are now.” It had once been a thickly-built black man with a bald head. The Zombie of George Romero thought it was lucky that it hadn’t kicked too hard, or it might have fractured several ribs. “Who are you?”
“You mean my original name?” the Zombie of George Romero replied. “I can’t remember,” it said after a while. “I’ve been trying and trying but...”
“I know it,” one of the other zombies exclaimed. It was a pale young woman with black mascara on its eyes which had run down its cheeks. “It’s George Romero.”
All the zombies looked at the Zombie of George Romero. “Yes,” one of the others, a fat boy in his mid-teens, agreed. “It used to be George Romero. I remember seeing it on TV while it was alive.”
“You bastard,” the first zombie, the black man, said quietly. “You absolute bastard.”
“What?” the Zombie of George Romero said, confused. “What have I done now?”
“Now? Nothing.” The black zombie flung out an arm like a young tree. The fist at the end of it was like a brick. “It’s what you did when you were alive that matters, bastard.”
“We’ve been hunted all evening and running for our unlives,” the last of the zombies said. It was a thin woman in a ragged dress. “And it’s all because of you.”
“Because of me?” the Zombie of George Romero protested. “I never did anything to you that –“
“It’s all because of you,” the pale girl zombie interrupted. “You and your zombie movies! Now everybody hates and fears us because they think we’ll eat them. You...filthy...bastard!”
“But how could I know?” the Zombie of George Romero protested weakly. “I never knew such a thing as a zombie even existed, let alone that I’d be one or that people would react this way.”
“No, you just knew what was good for your bank balance.” The black zombie moved menacingly forward. “You ought to be pulped.”
“If you hadn’t reinvented the zombie genre,” the thin woman zombie snapped, “none of this would’ve even happened.”
“Smash it,” said the fat boy, gleefully. “Bash its face in.”
The Zombie of George Romero raised its hands hurriedly. “Wait,” it said. “All right, so I admit you have reason to be angry with my...my former self. But we need to stick together now instead of fighting, don’t we? That’s logical, isn’t it? I could be of so much help to you.”
The black zombie paused suspiciously. “How, exactly,” it demanded, “are you going to be of help to us? You look like you’d fall to pieces in a strong wind.”
“You say I invented the zombie genre, right?” the Zombie of George Romero replied, thinking furiously. “So I should know all about it – more than you anyway.”
“We’ll see,” the black zombie said, stepping back reluctantly. “Let’s get out of here, anyway.”
They shuffled down the street. The Zombie of George Romero was in the lead, and felt the eyes of the others boring into its back. It tried to find something of leadership to say. Nothing came to mind.
“I’m hungry,” the fat boy zombie said.
“You can’t be,” the pale girl zombie told it. “We’re no longer alive, so we can’t digest food. So shut up and stop whining.”
“I can’t help it.” The fat boy zombie looked as if it would have burst into tears if it still had possessed working lacrimal glands. “I always got hungry around this time.”
“You always got hungry at all times,” the thin woman zombie said. “I remember you quite well. So there’s no point complaining.”
They came all of a sudden to a larger street, so suddenly that they were on it before they could stop themselves. The street was full of people rushing here and there in panic. Some of them saw the group of zombies and turned to flee. Others ran towards them looking over their shoulders.
“Zombies!” people everywhere screamed. “The zombies are coming!”
Before the Zombie of George Romero could react, a man ran into it and fell headlong. Another crashed into the black zombie, fell, and began shrieking in panic. The zombies stood staring at each other.
“What do we do now?” the girl zombie asked.
“You said you’d lead us,” the black zombie demanded. “Do some leading, then.”
“I’m hungry,” the fat boy zombie whined.
“If we were in one of your films,” the thin woman zombie said, “we’d...”
The Zombie of George Romero looked down at the squalling man on the ground. There was nothing appetising about him. In fact he was so unappetising that under normal circumstances the Zombie of George Romero wouldn’t have ever gone anywhere near him. These, however, were not normal circumstances.
“Do something,” the four zombies yelled at him. “Or get lost before we smash you.”
The Zombie of George Romero hesitated a moment longer, Then, seeing no way out, it knelt by the man on the ground and – slowly and reluctantly – began gnawing at it. After a while the other zombies joined in.
By the time the Zombie of George Romero had eaten the man’s brain, the Zombocalypse had finally begun.
Copyright B Purkayastha 2013