2: JOE ZOMBIE, ZOMBIE RIDE
Look, I’m gonna tell you right from the start that I wasn’t havin’ none of it. I was happy eatin’ people and doing the normal zombie gig. Sure, there’s a high mortality rate, but I’d already kinda died once, right, so what’s the problem with the second time?
But then that romantic upstart had to come and start disrupting the whole order of things. Yeah, that’s right. He didn’t want to be a regular zombie. No, he wanted to be one of the good guys, wanted to get all reformed and in control, or some kinda nonsense.
But not me, oh no no no. I’m a regular joe who just wanted to find a few people during the day and night to fill my stomach. No biggie, yeah? But then this other guy comes along and everything changes. People hear about him and his work and next thing you know, no one’s running in fear from me anymore! They all wanna be my friends and try and “help” me. Help me? Where were they when I became a zombie? Why was it PC all of a sudden to have zombie friends and go to zombie parties, huh? You know how confusing it is when you got a crowd of people around you shuffling and moaning, not sure who’s the real deal and who’s my next meal? It got real hard out there for a real zombie like myself. So I decided I needed to meet the schmuck who started all this craziness.
But first lemme tell you a little about myself.
Before this whole zombie business started, I was a regular workin’ joe. I mostly did construction, although every now and again I’d find myself working on a new highway or some such. It was hot, dirty work, but I didn’t mind. Especially not if it kept getting me some decent paychecks.
What did I want the money for, you ask? Two things – alcohol and my car. I loved going to the bar with my friends, and I loved spending time cruising in my car, windows down, bass pumping. In fact, if I was gonna complain about anything from the zombie unlife, it’s that I couldn’t drive anymore. Yeah, you heard me. I couldn’t operate any more complex pieces of machinery ‘cause of the whole “brain-motor functions” crap. Not to mention that they took my license away.
Dead, sure, but illegal?
Nah, I’d definitely do jail time for that.
So the night the whole thing went down started off with me cruisin’ down my normal strip. One of my friends called and said a new place had opened in his neighborhood, so I said I’d be there pronto. I took off down the highway, drivin’ for the last time in my specially-built, one of a kind baby, my girl – a convertible ’67 red Cobra GT 500 with white racing stripes down the sides. She had a rebuilt 427, leather interiors, and two 12-inch subs instead of a back seat.
She was perfect.
I could lie and say it was some kinda specially gorgeous night, that last one as a human, but honestly, I was playing my music loud and speeding around the other cars on the road. Meaning I wasn’t payin’ attention to the stars or some fruity crap like that.
Oh, hey, that doesn’t count, right? Speeding that night? I mean, I can’t get a ticket for that now, huh, since I kinda died. Isn’t that like double jeopardy or something?
Anyway, so I hit this new bar and I see my friends and I’m gonna go for the usual: cheap beer. But then the bartender tells me about this drink special – you got it! The same one that other sap went for, the “House of Horrors.” And yeah, I sure as hell drank a whole lot of those.
But I didn’t get all mad or nothing. Nah, that’s not me. I just got crazier and crazier, like double-dog-dare crazier. I kept egging on my guys, telling them to give me another challenge, come on, why not? And sure enough, they kept asking me to do things like dance on the tables and slide across the bar and sing karaoke love songs (which I swear I never done before!). But I got a little too wild with one of the bouncers and tried to get him to arm wrestle me. He pushed me back inside and warned me not to approach him again or I was outta there, but when I turned around to head back to my guys, I slipped on some spilled beer and down I went. I was out.
Nah, I didn’t go to the hospital. That’s ‘cause my friends weren’t too worried. They’d seen me messed up on a fairly normal basis on account of me drinking too much of the cheap stuff. What did they do instead of makin’ sure I was okay? They thought they’d play it funny, so they stripped me naked and left me passed on the patio of my side of the duplex I lived in.
What they didn’t expect was that I’d sleep through the storm the following morning. Maybe it was a blizzard. Who cares? All I know is that when I woke up, I was covered in snow, I couldn’t feel my body, and damn, but I was hungry.
I slowly climbed to my feet, and lemme tell you, it was a real struggle to get up. My body just wasn’t working the way it was supposed to – for a human, that is. For a zombie, though, it’s kinda hard to get up from lying on your back.
Hey, wait – don’t be using that against me, now, okay? I work for the government now, not against it. You can’t just go around cutting off zombie heads without certain consequences, if you get what I’m saying.
Anyway, I finally got to my feet and started to walk inside. But this nosy neighbor of mine saw me standing there, naked and grey, and had to come by and see what was up.
“Hey man, you okay?”
I turned towards him.
“What the hell happened to you? You look… hey. You’re naked… Hey! Stop looking at me like that. No man, stay away from me. Sto – ”
Yeah, well I got a whiff of him and boy, I gotta say I went for it with gusto. But he really was a bit of a tool, so I think I was really doing society a big favor.
Now, unlike that zombie wimp who took forever to realize what he was, I knew right away what had happened. And you know what? I was totally pumped. No more eight-to-five grind, no more bills, no more listening to what my boss or my mom said. I was free.
How, you may wonder, did I come to that conclusion? Well lemme tell you, being a zombie means a lot of things. Mostly, just eating as often as you can and running very slowly. More like jogging. Or shuffling. Well, putting one leg in front of the other. Who cares.
But it also means that I don’t have to think like everyone else because my body and my brain don’t function like they used to. It’s kinda like having a terminal disease. Everyone knows you’re dying – like terminal-illness dying - so they’re nicer to you than they really wanna be. Which definitely works in my advantage, because they all wanna help and they all ask what they can give you. All of which makes my job a whole lot easier.
What is my job, you ask?
Well I guess it’s PC as a reformed zombie to say my job is just to keep my self fed and calm so I don’t go attacking people all of the time. And that’s a skill that took a while to learn. Because one thing that other guy didn’t really go into in his book is how mad us zombies get when we’re hungry. I mean, we’re talkin’ rage against the machine. And people. And boy, we’re hungry a whole lot.
So there I was, new zombie, proud and excited, my stomach full from my nosy-and-now-in-pieces-neighbor. I decided to celebrate my new state of existence the only way I knew how – cruisin’ in my baby.
It took a few tries to get the keys, which were hanging on the hook just inside the fence, but I finally managed to close my hand over them. Then I went to open the garage to see if my baby was there, since I didn’t remember drivin’ it home. Yeah, I still wasn’t wearing anything, but it didn’t matter to me ‘cause zombies aren’t normal “people” so we don’t have to follow all those regular rules.
I got to my car, which was in its spot, meaning one of the fellas must’ve brought me home in it the night before. It was unlocked, which got me upset real quick because there was a lot of valuable equipment in that vehicle. But it got worse. Because when I forced myself into the driver’s seat, I had a hard time putting the key in the ignition. I maybe spent an hour doing that, with people looking at me all funny and me shouting at them to leave me alone (which just sounded like a dog growling). And once I got that done, I had to put the car in reverse, right, and back out? And grippin’ the throttle was real tough to do.
But the steering was pretty much impossible. I mean, I couldn’t do anything to keep up with turns and looking back and checking the mirror – nada. My body just couldn’t move like that anymore.
Well, I lost it. I tore myself out of my car and started beating on it with my hands. I dented it and shattered some windows before people started noticing. But I turned on the first two people to come close enough and managed to find room in my stomach for them. This scared all the others off, but it also calmed me down. I took off for the park down the road. And that’s where I stayed for the next couple months.
Turns out I wasn’t the only zombie hanging out in the forest. There were these other ones already there, eking out some kinda living, begging from people for food, or, leastways, begging them to be food. Now, I’m a pretty proud zombie and I ain’t afraid to admit that I’d rather go hungry than beg some passerby for a bit of muscle and bone. But somethin’ that about burst my gullet and made me almost forget the zombie code (thou shalt not eat other walking dead) was the sight of one of us holding a freakin’ sign asking for help!
Now, don’t get me wrong. Everyone has their own way of doing things. Me? I like to straight out brawl, usually after runnin’ someone down. Somethin’ about the chase just gets me feelin’ good about myself. But this other zombie really wanted help. He felt bad that he couldn’t control himself from his mindless, flesh-eatin’ urges, as if they were somehow not natural for us zombies. Do you know that’s like asking a vampire to be a vegetarian and wear sun block to try and fit in? I mean, how ridiculous is that? But sure enough, that’s what this one zombie was up to.
I started to get some hope when I saw the fella tear into some supposed psychologist, especially ‘cause that zombie pretty much disappeared after. But no such luck. Turns out he was just goin’ through some kinda trainin’ period where the poor schmuck went and got some speech therapy, self-control, and a living girlfriend! That’s right – a live human woman.
Then they both showed up at the park to start the whole reform thing to get zombies to be more responsible citizens of the country and better serve our communities. Well I wasn’t having none of it so I stayed away from them the first few times they tried to talk to me.
But then Dr. Beth finally cornered me, and I gotta say, that sign-holdin’ wimp is one lucky son of a zombie. She really does have the prettiest voice.
“You know, there are a lot more zombies out there than people think, just like werewolves and vampires and fairies and all the rest.”
I nodded at her in a “who cares” sorta way.
“You can choose to just be another red-eyed, rotting face in a slow-moving crowd, or can choose to be at the front, telling it which way to go.”
Well I can’t say that seemed like such a bad deal when she put it that way, especially after she added, “Being in the front also means you would be the first to reach food.”
It didn’t take her long to convince me that maybe I could be proud of being a zombie in a different way. As in, not settling for just being a typical one.
And let’s face it. My kind has got a lot of problems. It wouldn’t take too much effort to hunt us down and get rid of us since we don’t move too fast. So why not take some free protection from the agency, and through it, the government, ‘cause when I was living it sure as heck never offered me nothing free.
That’s why I went ahead an’ nodded to show I’d go with her (since, as a zombie, I couldn’t really speak my mind any more) and followed her back. I figured they was gonna do some experiments and such on me, but I had something I wanted in return.
Though lemme tell you, I really worked my rotting behind off for it.
This was before the whole training and learning to speak again routine the agency now does with newbies. See, there was no bathing or new clothes or nothin’. First of all, they put me in this whole “interrogation” room with the blinding white light and everything.
Then the men in black started asking me questions.
“Where were you the night before you became a zombie?”
“Who were you with?”
“When would you estimate your actual time of zombie conversion took place?
“How many people have you eaten?”
“Have you ever eaten only parts of people and left them alive?”
“What were your favorite activities when you were alive?”
“Any special skills, then or now?”
And that’s not even all of them. I mean, the whole questioning thing went on forever. But then after the questioning finally ended, they just got plain mean.
Some stiff came in and put some cookies on a plate in front of me. No biggie. Was never much of a cookie guy. But then they brought in a hamburger. Then a hot dog. Then a chili-cheese dog with relish. Then pizza!
But the worst… the worst was the beer. They brought in every kind of beer from cheap Miller to thick Guiness, blonde to dark, Pilsner to Bock. I mean, geez, I know I’m pretty proud to call myself a zombie, but they didn’t have to rub in my face the things I couldn’t have anymore. Nobody does that to the vampires, right? So why the poor, shambling, rotting zombie, huh?
I mean, that was some kinda torture, because man, I have to admit, at that moment, the beer smelled great and I sure wished I could have me a cold bottle.
But as we all know, zombies can’t drink alcohol because we all start sneezing, and that’s just ugly. Then we get mad.
And then we go on a people-binge.
I guess I’m trying to distract myself from talking about the next part, because as bad as the food and beer was, those government people were really just working at the bully level.
It was the next thing they did to me was pure evil.
They started showing me pics of – wait for it - classic cars. But these weren’t just any classic cars. These were the rare, do-they-really-exist conspiracy theory cars, and they had been deliberately totaled. How do I know that? You ever seen a before and after photo? Trust me, the after is always deliberate.
I tell you what, I screamed (in my zombie way) at the pure sacrilege of what they put in front of my eyes – a torn up ‘37 Bugatti 57s, a‘37 Horch 85 voll and ruhrbeck sport cabriolet with twisted doors and hood, a ‘72 Porsche 916 with the engine scattered into pieces, and a ‘57 Ferrari 250 testa rossa, painted bright pink and yellow. But the worst was seeing that ’67 Dodge Coronet R/T Hemi convertible, ripped straight down the middle! There were only two of those ever made! And what did they do to them?
Tear them apart.
You know who I wanted to tear apart?
I was pretty close to breaking those chains for a bite of major douche bag. ‘Course, it didn’t help that they didn’t feed me during that entire interrogation. Yup, that’s right. Torture and neglect. That coulda’ been a real lawsuit right there.
And it doesn’t exactly help win said zombie over. Hungry means not very happy, and it gets real hard to reason with us then.
Yeah, it sure took them a while to calm me down. Luckily Dr. Beth showed up and used that voice of hers. That combined with the two bums they gave me definitely made me a lot more willing to talk about maybe workin’ with the agency.
See, Dr. Beth realized that she had a gift, a way with zombies, that could be used to benefit all of us. That’s why she formed this agency thingy. And before long, the government showed up, offering money in return for recruits to help form an elite paranormal fighting force.
And they wanted me to join.
“So you see, what we’re lacking right now is enough zombie-power to fill the ranks.”
Dr. Beth smiled that kick-in-the-gut smile of hers.
“And you, Joe Zombie, are just what we’re looking for. Zombie reform is just in its infant stages, so we’re looking for as many of you as we can to help advise us on the agency’s procedures for approaching, negotiating, and if necessary, apprehending zombies.”
I nodded my head thoughtfully, deciding to wait to ask her what was in it for me.
She leaned away from me.
“And I should mention, we are also arming ourselves against other supernatural enemies of the state.”
Now this got my attention. After all, it’s not every day people are willing to acknowledge what’s right in front of their face. I went through that every day when people came up to me convinced I was just in a zombie suit. They never walked away, though, so I guess I hadn’t really helped spread the word about us zombies being really hungry.
So I gotta admit I was definitely interested in meeting some of the other folks, you know, who’re not quite human anymore. Swap some stories, share some blood or body parts. Might help me feel like I had friends again.
“Now, we are not unreasonable. What are some items we can provide in return for your services? A steady supply of food, yes.”
I nodded. Now we were getting down to demands. And there was somethin’ in particular I had in mind.
“Look, I’m having a little party for my significant other in a few days. I think you remember him from the park? Well, why don’t you come on by and see what it’s like being around humans again.”
I nodded again.
“Excellent. But, er, before you go, you need to do me a tiny favor.”
Turns out I was stinkin’ up the place, so Dr. Beth had me take this long bath. I came out smelling like roses.
So I spent a few days workin’ on the whole speech thing before getting’ dressed (even though I preferred not wearin’ anything) and goin’ to the party. It turned out to be full of zombies. Not all of them were real zombies, of course, but it kept me behaving for most of the night. And Dr. Beth’s zombiefriend looked real happy, dancin’ the night away with his gal. If I coulda’ had some beer, it mighta’ been just perfect.
Still, I had a lot of doubts. Did I really wanna work for the government? And how could I really help? I wasn’t fast, and who knows what those other zombies – or paras – might try to do to me. Hey, I’d already died once. I did not want to go through the whole thing again.
In fact, I might not have stayed with the plan and done the whole reform thing until the day they showed me CaRLA. I mean, talk about love at first sight. Thoughts of my lost baby disappeared and I kinda went a little crazy in my eagerness to get my hands on her. I even forgave them a little for the pics they showed me during their little interview.
CaRLA. Ca.R.L.A.A. CAmaro Revised for Limited Ambulatory Automatons.
That’s right. The agency had in its possession a ’69 Carmaro SS, black on black, with black tinted windows and leather bucket seats. It had a 396 engine that was chromed out with chrome valves and a chrome air cleaner. In short, it was nothing but muscle with a big motor - because that car is all about power – just the way I liked it. It was made to move fast, pure and simple, and they had one with a stealthy, mean look.
She was perfect.
And you know what? They were re-developing it especially to be handled by motor-function challenged zombies. And not just any zombie, but yours truly.
“We noticed your reaction to the government-led experiments on rare cars, and thought that this might be the incentive you need to see that we really are trying to help, and we want you on our side.”
Man, that Dr. Beth is pretty smart.
See, turns out all that experimentation-borderline torture crap had an up side. They figured that by giving zombies the chance to enjoy things from their former lives, it might keep us more stable and cooperative.
And boy they were right! The minute they dangled CaRLA in front of me and the possibility to cruise the streets again – I was hooked.
And honestly, man, she’s the best girl I ever had.
I don’t know what they offered the others, but I gotta say, they got one loyal zombie right here. I reformed right up, getting my words back together and joinin’ in the zombie fighting force. And if bein’ reformed means making a few sacrifices to my zombie pride and getting back on the road, then maybe I can see why being one of the good zombies might not be so bad.
And if I go berserk every now and again, maybe eat a little too much off the street, well then I just remind myself that nobody’s perfect, right?
So whaddya know, I’m still just a regular joe zombie who likes his zombie ride, but maybe this whole co-existence thing about being reformed ain’t so bad. I mean, I get fed pretty regularly in exchange for some brute work. It’s not as fun as chasing people down, but for sure it’s a lot safer. ‘Course, I’m all for the movement that wants to feed us federal and state prisoners live. Saves the government money and keeps me on the right side of the law, so it’s a win-win as far as I’m concerned.
And I guess, well, getting reformed has some other perks. Sure, they keep tryin’ to get me in suits, but I also get to hang out with my old friends. Now that I’m reformed, we can go out again and it’s not so bad. I keep a foot or hand on supply, and we all manage to have a nice time, just like the good ole’ days.
I also made a whole bunch of supernatural friends, but I’m not supposed to talk about that. I’m just sayin’, things have been definitely workin’ out.
But lemme tell you that I am NOT planning on writing a book like that fruitcake upstart wannabe zombie. I just thought you should hear my side of the story. Some of us hate what we are, some of us miss being human. But me – well, I got my friends (new and old), I got some new meaty alcohols, and I got a new baby.
Yeah, you might see me hitting the road sometime soon. I’ll be the one with my head out the window roaring at the sky, skin mottled, eyes red and glowing, not a stitch of clothing on.
And CaRLA purring beneath me.
After all, what more does a zombie need?
Note: This particular zombie is memorable for his antipathy towards the unofficial founder of the Zombie Reform Movement, his love of fast-moving vehicles, and his agreement with the government. In fact, although Joe Zombie was the first to succumb to the government’s “incentives,” he is quite complacent about the agreement. In his mind, he was bribed to drive the most beautiful car he’s ever touched, so it remains a win-win situation in his atrophied brain.
In fact, I’m not quite convinced that he’s the best choice for a good federal zombie minion/soldier, as he spends most of his time “cruising” down streets and challenging humans to “drag” races. But perhaps he does this to flush out non-reformable zombies (or other paranormals), as large crowds tend to draw them out.
Either way, it is quite adorable to see his head hanging out of a car as he zips past, tongue wagging in joy.
If only we could find a way to keep some clothes on him.