“The physiology of zombies is impossible, that’s all I’m saying,” Isolde insisted. Her eyes roamed the decaying city, the sun at one o’clock.
“This whole goddamn situation is impossible,” Anouk groaned back with a snarl.
Anouk peeked around the back end of a burned out Telsa sedan clenching an old-school, analog toothbrush – the kind that made you move your hand back-and-forth in order to scrub the plague off your teeth. What a goddam hassle she always thought about the process, especially whenever her long, black, sweat-tangled hair got in her mouth when she brushed. What the holy hell were people’s teeth like before laser toothbrushes? Anouk didn’t know.
“Got two of ‘em,” Anouk grunted towards Isolde who was crouched behind the car’s front tire. “The one coming around your side is limping; shouldn’t be too fast for you but that’s not an excuse to take your sweet ass time.” Isolde dribble a bit of spit onto the pavement and tucked her own toothbrush away.
“Phhtpt,” Isolde sounded. “Physiologically, zombies are dead. Their blood isn’t circulating and they don’t breathe. They’re not getting any oxygen to their cells so how could they be making the body’s energy molecule that’s required for muscle contraction and cellular respiration? It just doesn’t make any sense.” Anouk was patting her on the shoulder indicating that they should get ready but Isolde was still lost in thought.
“And nothing in classical pop culture has prepared us for this,” Isolde continued. “Zombies like this don’t exist anywhere in fiction or mythology. Don’t get bit or you turn instantly? We didn’t see that coming. Worse, for a while we had no idea what we had to do in order to deal with them, which doesn’t make sense either. But I guess there’s some things you just can’t make up.”
A grizzled veteran of World War One – they lost all their historical records and had to start counting over again – Anouk grabbed a fistful of Isolde’s tattered shirt and pulled the young medic towards her scarred face.
“Listen to me, kid, shit’s about to get really real now. When you spring into action, you can’t give ‘em a chance. They sense you coming and they’ll be gone right quick and we won’t be able to catch up. They’re gonna struggle too; they’re strong…”
“They shouldn’t be,” Isolde’s brows worried.
“Yeah, well, they are. They’re gonna try to bite you if you don’t hang on long enough and you know what that means,” Anouk shoved the youngster away. “Now get ready. Remember, you gotta hold that shit for a good fifteen seconds. A nice deep bite and hold it! It’s gonna be tough. It’s gonna be the absolute worst goddamn thing you’ve ever tasted. But you gotta hold on. You ready or not?”
Isolde patted the cooler by her side. It was filled with IV’s their friends and enemies were going to need.
“Soon as they come ‘round. Here they come,” Anouk breathed. “Go!”
Anouk tackled the zombie coming around the car’s rear end from the side, knocking it to the ground as she sank her teeth into the zombie’s spare tire. The monster’s flesh was bitter and sour, gooey yet chunky, and penetrated into the tongue. It was a taste that lingered for days so fiercely that you needed someone back at camp trained in PTSD to deal with grunts like Anouk and Isolde when they returned from the field, if they returned from the field. Anouk reached up and pulled the creature’s hair back so she wouldn’t get bit. She wanted to gag but she held on.
Isolde spun around the front of the car and smacked her forehead against the zombie’s. Everyone’s got to go into the field at least once, the twenty-something remembered as she fell back. This was their camp’s rule and it was especially true for the medics since a successful attack meant the dead would need medical assistance right away when they returned to life after a human bite, dehydration being the biggest concern.
Young, light, and lithe, Isolde tucked her chin to her chest before hitting the pavement flat. She avoided a concussion and lost her breath for merely a split second. It really was really real now Isolde knew as she spun around on her back like a breakdancer. (She’d seen videos but their audio was always missing. Was breakdancing a form of field training? She never liked that assumption and preferred to think people used to do it for fun.) The medic grabbed the zombie by the ankle as it was already up and turning to run away. With the fiercest grip she could muster, she dragged herself toward the monstrosity and sank her teeth into the thing’s calf.
Oh! Oh my god! That…is…never tasted anything…so bad. Hold. Hold on fired across her brain. The zombie squealed something unholy before it reached down, lifted Isolde upside down like she weighed nothing and gnashed her buttocks. Isolde spit out a chunk of the zombie’s calf muscle to let loose her own unholy exclamation. She knew she hadn’t bitten it long enough to turn it but time wasn’t a factor for the zombie’s bite.
“Anouk! I’m bit! I’m going to turn, I’m going to…”
Well fuck all to shit Anouk thought as she timed out her own bite. The zombie she was latched onto collapsed as was always the case when they re-turned, allowing Anouk to let go. She jumped towards Isolde while the zombie that bit her turned and broke into a 40mph sprint. Gotta let it go now she figured as she fell on her knees by Isolde’s side, rotten blood flowing from her mouth. As the veteran heard that familiar growl common to the dead, she wondered if the taste wouldn’t be so bad since Isolde had turned only seconds ago. Anouk snapped down at the waist and bit Isolde on the ass for the sake of consistency, limiting the noob’s injuries.
“Nopeph, shtil taysh like shiff,” Anouk muttered as she held down the flailing medic. A few seconds later Isolde went limp. Anouk rolled the kid over and slapped her hard across the face. “Now I ain’t wanna eat shit for a week now, ya dumb…” Anouk was going to say something highly inappropriate for those trying to rebuild a civil civilization. She leaned her head back and yelled ‘fuck’ as loud as she could.
“What happened?” Isolde asked groggily. The youngster stirred, reached back and felt her buttocks, and felt the warmth of her own blood. “Did I get bit? It really hurts.”
“Oh, kid, you have no fucking idea,” Anouk jawed. The veteran hoped Isolde hadn’t been keeping track of her swearing; she had no credits left to give up to the community’s swear jar. Anouk engaged her quads and pulled Isolde up along with her. “See to our new friend over here,” she pointed to the former zombie lying unconscious nearby. “At least we got one of ‘em.”
“Oh god, did mine get away? Did I bite that thing for nothing?” Isolde ran her tongue around her mouth. “Oh, oh fuck. Oh fuck. Is that going to go away?”
“In a few days,” Anouk answered. “But the memory is forever,” she smiled before going straight-lipped.
Isolde limped over to her medical supplies and retrieved two IV bags. She popped some syringes and fed a needle into each arm of the newly human. Judging by the relatively mild state of exposure to the elements of the former zombie, Anouk figured this man would be conscious and walking within 30 minutes. Good; she was tired, bitter in more than one sense, and didn’t feel like doing jack shit else today.
“I wish we’d gotten the other one,” Isolde fretted as she watched over the man.
“Don’t you worry, kid, you owe me two bites. Gonna be fun seeing you pay your dues.” Anouk looked around garbage-strewn city. You couldn’t see it but there, hiding in the shadows were plenty of opportunities.
All Rights Reserved © October 2018 John J Vinacci