S. P. Blackmore & Steven Novak
For my family.
Sorry this zombie thing wasn’t just a phase.
“Do you think he’d eat Spam?”
You know the apocalypse has gotten a little stale when you can contemplate feeding Spam to a zombie without fearing for your life.
The dead man ignored my demand. He stretched his hands out, trying in vain to snatch us and drag us into a loving and entirely fatal embrace. The fact that he was securely locked in a cell some ten feet away from us seemed to make no difference to him. Maybe he had poor depth perception.
The routine had gone on just about every hour on the hour—probably the amount of time he needed to forget his previous unsuccessful attempt—for as long as he had been in here with us. Someone had clearly embalmed him before they chucked him into prison, but even so, he left sticky bits of skin and clothing on the bars that contained him. After a few seconds of trying, something always clicked in his liquefying brain, and he slumped back, giving us all a look that was probably the revenant equivalent of a baleful stare. I swear he made a dissatisfied grunting sound.
“Seriously, do you think he’d go for it?” Gloria Fey asked. She sat cross-legged next to me, her head turned to stare at the ghoul in his little corner. “Because he can have mine.”
“Try it,” I said. “Maybe we could have avoided the entire apocalypse with Spam in a can.” And hey, the undead will chew on just about everything besides Spam, including people, animals, walls, paper, and in some cases tires, so why the hell not Spam?
Gloria scooted to the edge of our cell and stuck her arm through the bars, shaking the can at him. “Hey, Horace,” she said. “Want some Spam?”
Horace reacted more to her presence than the promise of Spam, and he pushed his rotten self against the bars of his cell again. Gloria waited until he was good and wound up, then rolled the can of Spam through our cell, across the brig floor, and into his little habitation area.
The can clattered loudly, then bumped into his foot.
Horace cocked his head, his attention caught by the rattling. He looked at Gloria and then down at the Spam. For a half-second, I thought he might go for it. Holy shit, plague of undead averted by copious amounts of Spam. We’d be heroes.
But then, in true reanimated fashion, Horace stretched for Gloria instead, his trademark moan rising into what sounded very much like a frustrated squeal.
“He sounds like my old dog when she really wanted something,” Dax said. He sat in his cell across from us, watching the exchange with great interest as he scooped what remained of our breakfast mush out of a bowl and into his mouth. “Sorry, bro,” he added. “You can’t have our brains. Or our sweet, tasty flesh. Vijay, give him your oatmeal if you’re not going to eat it.”
His cellmate Vijay didn’t answer, and instead seemed deeply interested in studying the thin mattress that doubled as his bed. The two men, Gloria, and I had been locked up in the Hastings version of military prison since our arrival some two weeks prior—at least, I figured it was two weeks. Couldn’t have been much more than that.
Two weeks since Tony, Dax, and I had set out from Camp Elderwood in an effort to find out what had happened to Hastings—and to beg for help if they could offer it. For all I knew, Tony had negotiated something the day we arrived, but that didn’t explain why they kept the rest of us locked up.
It wasn’t all bad, I guess. We each had a mattress and a decent enough supply of food and water, which was more than any of us had on the road. But damn if cabin fever hadn’t started setting in even before they locked the ghoul in with us.
“What do you think he’s in for?” I asked. I brought it up at least once a day. Seriously, who throws a zombie in jail?
“Maybe he robbed a bank,” Gloria said.
Vijay stood up and grasped the bars, prompting a new wave of irritated flailing from Horace. “Guys, we’ve been in here too long. We’re humanizing him. It’s fucked up.”
Horace began stalking back and forth in front of his bars, seemingly upset by the entire predicament. While I had seen a few ghouls that seemed to think more deeply than most, the majority of the undead did not have a large range of emotion; they tended to default to hungry rage and occasionally cropped up with slightly thoughtful. I had identified things like anger and irritation, but I still wasn’t sure if I was simply ascribing human characteristics to them because it was just easier.
Horace made a low keening sound.
I sat up straight. “That’s a new one.”
Dax rolled his eyes. “They all sound the same, Vibeke.”
“He actually seems…disappointed.”
Gloria sighed. “I hope not. First comes disappointment, then comes angst, and then suddenly he’s tweeting about the emptiness of his existence.”