What lies beneath is only buried, it is not dead. With one-eye closed, horror becomes caricature presenting us with an archetypal opera on tour from the world of dreams. Further armed with a macabre sense of humor, one begins to believe a zombie kerfuffle of animated rot might even be amusing.
Mainstreet appeared safe until the sun went down at 5:38 EST and a darkness took hold that was as black as kohl. It was 6:03 on the dot when Thorp Whitaker, Mainstreet’s sheriff, and his deputy, Moby Jensen, walked out of the Dunkin Donuts at Eastgate Mall. Sheriff Whitaker glanced up toward the sky before saying, “More doom and gloom than this man can handle. When’s the goddamn cloud cover going to lift? We’re supposed to be having a full moon tonight.”
Moby took a bite out of his jelly donut and exposed its bright red filling. “Ground’s too hot for this time of year. That’s what’s causing all the fog.”
Getting along toward 6:30, families were going about their familiar routines—children and homework, TV, then bed around 10:00. Most people were asleep when the earth in several of the churchyards began to crack and heave upward. The Westminster clock hanging on the wall behind the sheriff’s desk had just chimed 11:00 o’clock when Moby glanced up from his copy of Iron Man Magazine and asked Sheriff Whitaker, “Did you hear that?”
“Hear what?” Sheriff Whitaker replied. He was hard of hearing from his many years of target practice without wearing earplugs.
Moby listened more carefully. He even got up from his chair and went to the front door of the office, opened it, and peered up and down the deserted street. The one slight peculiarity were the lights along the main drag. They were emitting an eerie green glow in the fog. Beyond that, the night was deadly quiet. Moby stepped back inside and told the sheriff, “Guess it was nothing. Maybe it’s all that fracking they’re doing south of town. Probably giving mother nature a bellyache.”
By then, it already was too late. Apocalypse began at sundown.
Seconds after the last rays of orange sun dipped below the horizon, the first cracks appeared in the ground at Saint Mary’s Cemetery. By 7:10, the dirt-encrusted nails of bony fingertips were emerging here and there, poking up through the ground like drifts of button mushrooms. By 9:00 o’clock, the ground in Saint Mary’s Cemetery appeared to be alive with squirming disembodied hands.
In the long run, escape from their underground prison was more difficult for the zombies than is commonly believed. It took them hours to dig their way to freedom. Those who had been dead the longest emerged first, crawling out through the generational layers of compost blanketing the Earth. The longest-undead even proved helpful to their newly-undead compatriots. Once they were free, they took up the task of tearing at the sod where the newly buried were struggling to escape. They even buddied-up and moved a few larger boulders that impeded the resurrection of some. What they lacked in soul, brains, and physical vigor, they made up for in determination.
When the zombie resurrection was complete, in Saint Mary’s Cemetery alone, assembled were eleven million various insects; thirty-eight prehistoric sloths; a pair of saber-tooth tigers; three condykarths, which are prehistoric hoofed mammals; twenty Paleo-Indian Clovis people, a woolly mammoth, eleven hundred rats and mice; thirty-one dogs; fifty-eight cats and one goat. Thirty-eight modern humans also resurrected. Two were in unmarked graves. One of these two had been buried with the one goat in a compromising position. That was story in itself. The other unmarked grave held the remains of an alien found in the middle of a crop circle in 1953. At the time, two dozen local residents saw the body and declared it, “another goddamn Gray.” The sheriff at the time, Sheriff Tinabadge, told the local news, “It was nothing more than the mutilated remains of a cow.” By that time, the body of the alien was safely buried in an unmarked grave in Saint Mary’s Cemetery.
The town of Mainstreet had a dwindling population. Depending on the profit-margin whims of mega-corporations, the population could vary between three thousand and seven thousand residences. Most shops along the main street of town stood empty since the 1970’s when outsourcing sucked the life-blood out of the community. All serious commerce now took place at Eastgate Mall where dead-eyed cashiers at the Walmart ordered customers to, “Have a nice day or else.” The only in-town traffic jam happened on Sunday mornings when the thirty-two churches opened their doors and Bible-thumping preachers disseminated God’s views on human morality to the masses. Sixteen of these churches had cemeteries. Mariner’s Church was said to hold the remains of a famous Caribbean pirate and a family of early European settlers that died of The Plague. The new cemetery west of town and the veterans cemetery north of town held thousands, including all those who died in the World Wars.
At exactly 10:58 PM, the woolly mammoth zombie suddenly found her footing and obliterated the white picket fence surrounding Saint Mary’s Church. That’s when Moby Jensen glanced up from his magazine and asked Sheriff Whitaker, “Did you hear that?” Moments later, the mass of undead from the beginning of time began their slow lumbering pilgrimage toward the heart of Mainstreet. Their feet barely left the ground as they shuffled and scraped their way along toward nowhere and beyond. The only glue holding the divergent assemblage together was their collective rot. In the long run, their rot proved a weak epoxy and the coutége left skin, teeth, hair and an occasional body part along the thoroughfare to town. In the post-mortem world we live in today, it was easy to trace, what would become known in the aftermath as, the Resurrection Point of each zombie.
Pity the wide-eyed innocents who first saw the stark visceral emergence of the zombies and realized they were something more serious than wispy ghosts.
Mainstreet’s library closed its doors at 10:00 PM. Nancy Prettineck, librarian, went to the ladies room, fixed her face, and blotted her lead-red lipstick with a piece of tissue and tossed it in the trashcan. Later, Moby Jensen would retrieve the tissue as evidence. When Nancy walked outside at 10:20, her boyfriend Tommy Hotkake was waiting to drive her home. Instead, Tommy seduced Nancy into going to Stewart’s for burgers and root beers. While they were eating, he also talked her into driving out to Pike’s Reservoir. They never made it. Two bodies were found the next day with missing brains. They were taken to the county morgue where they resurrected the following night with all the other morgue residents.
Pity the realist who attempted to use his authority and physical power to halt the sudden onslaught.
When the bulk of the zombies reached the crossroads at the center of Mainstreet, Sheriff Whitaker loaded his double-barreled shotgun and stepped out into the middle of the street. A few seconds later, the slow stampede took him down with all the others.
Pity the survivors for they carry the burdens of the past and present as they attempt to kept their own hope alive.
An hour past dawn, the country clerk, the only official still left alive in Mainstreet, swore Moby Jensen in as the new acting sheriff. Moby stood in the middle of the street as the few hundred survivors came out of hiding and sought his guidance. Moby was twenty-two years old, patient, smart and respectful, yet he felt the deep well of his inexperience that morning. His baby blue eyes filled with tears as he told his friends and neighbors, “We’re outnumber by at least a million to one.”
“We will fight!” came a resolute voice from the small crowd.
Moby was shocked at the energy and determination coming from them. “That’s right! We’ll fight!” he shouted in return. “We’ll call ourselves the Army of The Living.”
“We are the Army of The Living!” came a voice from one quarter and then another and another until they all were shouting, “We’ll fight! We’re the Army of The Living.”
Moby raised his arms and said, “Listen, every last one of you,” and the small band of survivors hushed and drew near. “We know very little about this new menace, but we do know the following three things: Their first targets are the most innocent; they want our humanity and souls and for some cockamamie reason, they believe our complete consciousness resides in our brains. We know zombies cannot survive the light of day and the scrutiny of reason; however, if you are bitten, you will become a zombie too.”
“Keep hope alive,” shouted a woman’s voice off to his right.
“That’s right,” said Moby. “If we can keep hope alive, it will keep us alive.” And so the battle began…
copyright © 2013 Martha Fawcett