by Kathy Bryson
-Short Story, Zombies
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You don’t have to be a medical student to know the dead do not get up and walk around. Anyone who’s buried a pet in the backyard knows the dead don’t walk. They don’t even lurch.
The night-shift in the morgue was supposed to be a chance to study in quiet and off-set ridiculous student loans. Giovanni is stunned when his patient sits up and starts scolding. Now he’s got to convince an unbelieving medical community to take action, so he can get back to learning about the dead – not the undead!
by Kathy Bryson
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I’m thrilled to be part of the September Zombie Event. Thanks for having me Velvet!
Most people think back-to-school in September, but for me, back-to-school and zombies go hand-in-hand. That’s because my zombie series is based on true events that occurred at my school. It’s true, you can ask Giovanni himself.
So the zombie is based on a true story?
Yes, an elderly lady came into my ER to get her arm reset and stopped breathing on the table. We were able to resuscitate her however.
That’s good, but she wasn’t actually a zombie right?
Well, a couple of the other tutors (that’s my other job) got to debating about where zombies come from. The original idea was not shuffling dead bodies, but something much more sinister from voodoo and slavery in Haiti.
So the book’s about voodoo?
The whole series of novellas explores where the supernatural and medical science collide. The modern world doesn’t have all the answers to some classic questions yet!
So, you think a real zombie outbreak is possible?
What actually happens to the human body as it decomposes makes for some of the funniest moments of the book – in a really gagging sort of way!
What inspired you to go to medical school?
I’ve always been intrigued by how the human body works and I wanted to help out my community. My family isn’t the wealthiest and I’ve seen a lot of people who’ve put off medical care because of finances.
Your original degree was in Italian though?
Right, hence the name Giovanni – not my real name!
Do you think it was necessary to change your name for protection?
Oh no, I’m just waiting until the book becomes famous or the zombie outbreak occurs before I go public.
Oh, yeah! The writing tutor recording my adventures has only just started on what really goes on at college!
“New, huh?” Fred scrawled something across the bottom of the page and handed it back to Giovanni. “Don’t worry about it. Everybody freaks out at first, but you get used to it.”
He waved vaguely at the back wall with its row after row of file drawers that didn’t hold paper. “C’mon, I’ll help you put her away this time.”
More grateful than he could ever express, Giovanni helped Fred maneuver the recalcitrant gurney over to the back wall and nervously unlocked and opened a square metal door. What looked like a file drawer was actually one part of a self-contained refrigeration unit. This was a small morgue according to the manual. Everyone got his or her own drawer, but shared a central cooling and back up system unlike the county facility where everyone shared shelf space in a refrigerated room.
Fred had no nervous qualms and instead had the white cloth whipped off the gurney and the drawer’s metal tray pulled out in one smooth move. “Okay, you lift the feet and I’ll get the head.”
Giovanni looked down and was surprised. The white swathed figure on the gurney looked like a load of laundry more than anything. “It’s so small.”
“Yeah.” Fred carefully angled himself in between the wall and the head of the gurney. He gently slid both hands under the figure’s shoulders so its head rested on his forearms. “Most of the elderly are by the time they pass. Just wasted away. It’s the fat bastards who die of heart attacks that are a pain. On the count of three, lift.”
Giovanni hurried to slide his hands under the figure’s legs and lifted. The body shifted easily to the sliding tray.
Fred stepped back and reaching for the white cloth, began folding it. “Shame really,” he said, regarding the body solemnly and shaking his head. “Mrs. Harris was a real nice lady.”
“Wait? Mrs. Harris?” Giovanni’s glance darted between the still figure and the clipboard of papers he held in one hand. “I know her. She was in the ER this morning.”
Fred nodded. “Regular customer. Guess this was her last trip.” He squinted at Giovanni as he put the folded cloth down. “You okay, son?”
“Yeah, yeah, of course,’ Giovanni pulled himself together. “I just thought she’d made it. She had a dislocated elbow.” His mind skittered away from the memory of Mrs. Harris not breathing as she lay in the ER exam room.
“Well, it happens.” Fred eyed him from underneath lowered brows, and then shrugged. Apparently he wasn’t going to concern himself any further as he proceeded to wrestle and curse his gurney back into the freight elevator. He didn’t even look back or wave as he pressed the button for an upper floor.
Giovanni did wave, but absently, and hurried back to the morgue as soon as the freight elevator doors closed. He flipped urgently through the paperwork on his clipboard, but there were no patient records included, just blank forms waiting for the morgue manager’s signature to ensure the right body was handed off to the right funeral home. At her age and in her physical condition, Mrs. Harris wouldn’t merit any attention from the medical examiner. She was simply an old lady who had passed as everyone did eventually.
Giovanni sighed and put down the paperwork. He didn’t see where he could do anything more for Mrs. Harris and the hope that maybe he’d done enough started to creep up on him. After all, the other, fully qualified doctors had administered the actual anesthetic. He was probably just feeling indoctrinated guilt from being raised in a large Catholic, Italian family.
Dimly in the background, he heard a mournful howl. Rufus, he thought with an inward eye roll and it didn’t even occur to him how eerily appropriate it was for the dog to howl just then. Instead, he reached for a pen and the toe tag on the bundle in front of him, determined to ensure that Mrs. Harris reached her final rest without mistake.
The toe tag pulled away. Frowning, Giovanni reached again. The toe tag slid away from him and he watched horrified as the swathed figure writhed, then sat up. From somewhere behind him, he could hear frantic barking and a high-pitched wail. When he gasped for breath, he realized the wail came from him even as the cocooned corpse bent forward and mumbled, “Sonny, you scream like a girl.”
Guest post created for September Zombies event by Kathy Bryson
© 2016. All rights reserved.
About the author:
Kathy lives in Florida where she caters to the whims of spoiled cats and wonders what possessed her to put in 75 feet of flower beds.
Find out more about this author:
by Kathy Bryson
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