DEAD LIVING (excerpt)
by: Ryan Buck
The zombie's head came apart after three good whacks from the business end of Mel's machete. Thick, black, coagulated blood oozed out the chopped and mangled face. What was left of the dead man's skull grinned up at Mel. Mel kicked the still standing body to the ground, turned her head and vomited. She was busy flicking the clinging bits of brain from the end of her machete when Davy came up behind her.
"Whoa! Watch where you swing that thing will ya?"
"Don't stand so close to me."
"Hey I know that song." Davy hummed a bar from the song and continued.
"Seriously, Hunter wants to see you."
"You mean Alan?"
Davy stood nervously and cleared his throat. Being new to the team didn't give him allowance to criticize the boss. Of course being old school didn't either, she just didn't give a shit. She wasn't going to play along with Alan's little ego trip and call him by anything but his name. Hunter? Could he have chosen a more pretentious bullshit pseudonym for himself? Melissa Markham of Taggert, Indiana had been with the Zombie Hunter (TM) group for over three years and had seen it grow from a one time lucky rescue operation into a rapidly advancing business venture for one Alan Wilcox, founder, proprietor and sole stockholder.
She, Kenny Balfor and Ozzie Davis (no relation to the baseball legend) had all braved the Quarantine Zone to recover friends and family left behind during the Panic, along with Alan Wilcox, who only went to shoot zombies. That wasn't really so special. Their group was one of hundreds that foolishly left the Uninfected Areas to go back and check on the state of the little worlds they abandoned when the dead stopped staying dead. All the things that got left behind seemed more important than staying alive. For whatever reasons they gave themselves thousands of people walked right back into that wasted land of Hell's Nightmare, but only their group ever walked out again.
Once word spread Alan, who had been the owner of a small chain of restaurants that had just gone national before the Plague Years, thought up the brilliant idea of cashing in on his newfound fame. He charmed Kenny Balfor and Mel into joining him again with visions of gold and fame and offered a no refunds "safari" into the "Queezy" for anyone who had cash or other tradable commodities. It was surprising how many fools Alan was able to find dumb enough to fall for his bullshit heroics and rhetorical machoism.
Mel was convinced it was his teeth. Alan's teeth were too white, far too white to be believed. She was convinced there was some kind of hypnotic transmitter installed in them and that every time Alan talked he flashed his pearls and distracted you from what he was really convincing you to do. It's the only way she could've been bamboozled into ever setting foot outside of a Safe Area again. Either that or she would have to admit that she was starting to like killing zombies as much as Alan did and she wasn't ready to do that yet. Davy scratched his chin and looked at his feet. Mel sheathed her machete and dusted bits of zombie brains from her jeans.
"Fine, fine. I'll go see what he wants." She rolled her eyes as she passed Davy by and headed for "Romero" where Alan was waiting. "Romero" was the affectionate name Alan had given to his armored double decker touring bus, purchased from a garage back in Safe Area 74. He had spent a lot of money modifying it for wasteland travel and it was the prize of the Zombie Hunter (TM) venture. The bottom half of the bus sported a fully armored "zombie resistant" exterior, at least that's what Alan claimed in the brochures he had printed up. The upper portion was where the "action" happened. From the safety of the top deck safari patrons could fire away at closing zombies to there hearts content. Alan was up top with the four dupes who had forked over their savings for a "protected sojourn into the Quarantined Zone". He was busy having his picture taken big game hunter style. He caught Mel with the corner of his eye and nodded. She waited for him by the armored bus' doors.