by Ty Drago
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Don’t call ‘em “zombies”.
That’s the mantra that every one of us learns on our first day.
I always laughed at the ragged, shuffling stars of all those George Romero movies — hordes of flesh-eating groaners, their expressions blank and their knees and elbows locked. Half the time, they didn’t even look all that dead really. Just kind of gray. And they always seemed to move so slowly!
“Oh no! A zombie’s after us! Um … we better walk a little faster.”
And don’t get me started on the human morons who are being hunted by them. No planning. No tactics. No preparation at all. Just run, run, run and hope to God you don’t hit a locked door or a blind alley, which they always do. Then they turn and stare in helpless horror as the wall of heavily made-up extras crowds in around them and proceeds to chow down — like really, really slow moving piranha.
The “zombie apocalypse”. What a lame way for the world to end.
The real thing, as it turns out, is totally different.
My name’s Will Ritter, and I’m thirteen-years-old. For the last few months, my life has been about fighting Corpses. That’s what we call ‘em: Corpses. Not zombies. Corpses are human cadavers that have been possessed and somehow re-animated by “things” that come from “someplace else”. Wish I could be more specific, but that’s pretty much all we got so far. Alien invaders? Demons from the Pit? Plug in any term you like. The result’s the same.
But while we may not know what they are, we know what they do.
They arrive here with no bodies of their own, just pure dark energy, and so they wear cadavers — kind of like suits of clothing. They look for the freshest corpses they can find. Then they move in and bring ‘em to life and use ‘em to walk and talk, keeping each host until it literally falls apart around them. Then they find another.
Worse, the Corpses have a way to wrap themselves in an illusion of normalcy. Some form of telepathy, maybe. A false face and a false identity that the whole world sees and believes. Then they hide amongst us, holding down regular jobs. Some are cops. Some are shop owners. One of them even ran for mayor.
Your bus driver. Your science teacher. Your next door neighbor. Totally normally looking dudes, right? But underneath, their their skin is bloated purple, fluids ooze from their every orifice, and maggots fill their mouths.
You just can’t see it. But we can.
Some kids — I’m one of the “lucky” ones — develop the ability to See through the Corpses’ illusions, to recognize them for the rotting wormbags they really are. The power kicks in around puberty, usually all of a sudden. One day everything’s fine, and the next the dead are all around you! More than one kid freaks out. I mean, who can blame them?
But freaking out just alerts the Corpses that they have a Seer in their midst. Then they snatch the poor kid, take ‘em off someplace quiet, and —
Corpses don’t use weapons. They use their hands. And their teeth.
And if the poor kid slips away and run home to tell Mom and Dad? Well, Mom and Dad don’t believe. Of course they don’t. Adults never believe kids about stuff like this, right?
And if they do believe, even a little? Then the Corpses kill them, too.
Not many of us get away. But those who do have banded together into a kind of child’s army. We’re runaways, all of us, afraid to go home because we know doing so would put our families in danger. So we hide, moving about at night, trying to stay unseen — and alive. We watch the middle schools, looking for those kids who’ve just gotten the Sight. Then we rush in and rescue them, making them one of us — if we can.
If we’re fast enough.
The Corpses are everywhere. Thousands of them. Tens of thousands. More show up every day. They’re infiltrating the schools, the police department, even local government. They hunt us, but that’s not all they do. They also work together, grabbing more and more power, trying to take over. Right now, their invasion of Earth is still pretty small, but it’s getting bigger.
The dead are taking over the world. The apocalypse has begun.
Right now, I’m standing just outside a darkened city alley with three of my friends. We’re armed with water pistols and super soakers. Yep, that’s what I said. Guns are useless against Corpses. So are knives. You can’t kill ‘em. At worst, you can damage their stolen bodies so badly that the thing inside gets trapped and has to lie still until his dead buddies show up to help him.
But you can fight them.
“Now!” Sharyn whispers.
Helene, Dave and me step out onto the alley, bathed in the glow of the overhead street light. In front of us, four Corpses, all of them “wearing” cops, turn and glare. Corpses have milky dead eyes, like the eyes of a doll — but I can almost feel the malice burning in those eyes when they look at us. They hate us. They want to kill us. They want to rip us limb from limb and taste our flesh on their blackened tongues. They have no pity, no remorse, and not an ounce of fear.
“Evening, deaders!” Helene says, raising her soaker.
They come. They don’t shuffle. They don’t moan. Instead, they rush us with horrific speed, hands like rotting claws, their lipless, sunken faces twisted in hunger and rage.
Saltwater does funny things to Corpses. It somehow messes up the way the invader inside controls its host cadaver. Hit ‘em in the leg and the leg goes numb. Hit ‘em in the face and they go blind. Enough of it and they fall down, twitching and thrashing like they’re having a seizure. It doesn’t last too long, but it usually lasts long enough.
The three of us hose the Corpses down good. One plows head first into a lamp post. Another starts turning in circles, dragging one leg until I nail him in the ear with a shot from my water pistol and he goes down. The other two collide and fall atop one another, rotting limbs akimbo.
It takes maybe ten seconds. Easy as pie.
Then Sharyn steps out of the shadows and raises her sword. God, how I wish I had a sword! How she came upon it is a long story, but she uses it real well, smoothly loping off the heads of each of the fallen deaders. Then, one by one, she kicks the heads clear of the bodies, a few of which are still twitching. They’re not dead, but they’re out of commission.
The pavement is wet with “Corpse Juice”, the fluid that tends to leak out of cadavers as they decompose. The smell turns my stomach. Jeez, you’d think I’d be used to it by now.
“Four down,” Sharyn announces with a smile. “Now … let’s find out what they were guarding.”
She turns to the police cruiser that’s parked on the street. In the trunk, bound and gagged, we find an eleven-year-old girl. She’s a new Seer, snatched from somewhere in the city and brought here by the Corpses for “disposal”. She looks up at us, her eyes desperate and wet with tears.
I always hate the deaders, but never more than right at this moment.
“It’s okay,” I tell her. “My name’s Will, and you’re safe now.”
Helene unties the girl and removes her gag. Her frightened gaze traveles from us to the fallen Corpses and back again. She swallows. “Who …” She swallows again. “Who are you people?”
Sharyn and I swap looks. I sigh. Another runaway. Another reluctant recruit for our child’s army. Another soldier. God how I miss my Mom …
But then I paste on a smile and answer her question: “We’re the Undertakers.”
Guest post created for September Zombies event by Ty Drago, author of The Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses
© 2011. All rights reserved.
by Ty Drago
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Rise of the Corpses
by Ty Drago
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