The Meandering Dead

When the zombie apocalypse came, it really wasn’t all that bad.

It started small enough. A new strain of flu was making the rounds that fall — not a bad strain, nothing to panic over, just new. A couple days of sniffles and coughs and body aches and then back to the grind. Except it wasn’t just a couple days of sniffles and coughs and body aches for everybody.

The comas came first. People would curl up in an old quilt or comforter with a nice cup of lemon-honey tea and an old movie on the TV. After a few hours of coughing, they’d nod off (finally) and just never wake up. Well, not wake up as they were, anyway.

While they slept, their skins would turn gray, sometimes grayish-green. When they awoke, they would toss off their old quilt or comforter and begin shambling around the house.

Husbands and wives would cower and scream, sometimes flee in terror. The more reactionary would break out their firearms and put lead through their former loved ones’ heads, which was certainly a final solution to their particular problem. Others would cower in the corners as the gray, shambling corpses would come toward them, sometimes groaning, sometimes growling, sometimes muttering.

“Br — br — br—,” they might say.

“Br — brains?” the fearful family member or friend might respond.

“Br — br — breeeaaad….”

Bread was surprisingly popular among the newly awakened undead. Corn bread was good, and muffins were always welcome, it seemed, especially in the early days of the outbreak. As time went by, though, it was discovered that gluten-free artisan loaves went over best.

Of course, the undead can’t live (“live”) on bread alone. The shambling walkers made their way to the local grocery stores and raided the produce aisles. Vegetables and fruits proved remarkably popular, especially organic produce from local, sustainable farm operations. Some areas reported a preference for the veggies to be lightly steamed with just a pat of hand-churned butter, but generally speaking, most of the creatures preferred to eat them raw.

Other than that, the dead just sort of… meandered. They’d shamble down the sidewalks — generally speaking, they obeyed crosswalk signals better than their still-living compatriots — or through local parks. Parks proved especially popular, as those undead horrors who couldn’t find a good supply of organic mixed greens would resort to chewing on grass, leaves or the occasional topiary.

For the first couple of weeks, there was wild-spread panic among the still living. You can imagine. There was a lot of violence against the walkers, at least until people realized that they weren’t interested in fighting back. Indeed, the undead pretty much just ignored the rest of us, especially as our numbers began to decline.

The infrastructure proved remarkably resilient, even with substantially reduced work forces to maintain it. Of course, with an ever increasing percentage of the population no longer requiring any electrical, communications or Internet service at all, that freed up a lot of bandwidth for the rest of us, not to mention manpower. There wasn’t much call for some professions anymore — venture capitalist, financial manager — so most of those of us who remained worked at the local power plant or organic farm commune, although keeping the meanderers out of the garden was always an issue. Electrified chain-link fences became a popular item.

Studies were done on the undead. Although their bodies were still active, they weren’t alive, as we understood life. Their neurons were firing, although not the way a living brain would. Some neuroscientists speculated that, for the walkers, the world just sped up around them, going too fast for them to really comprehend what was going on, the results of their cognitive functioning slowing down so much. They lived in a world of kaleidoscopic lights and the living walking by like characters in an old silent movie comedy.

So, we’ve all learned to live with the new world order — well, “live.” And it really isn’t so bad. The population of people left to talk to has reduced considerably, which ironically has had the benefit of improving the conversation considerably. I imagine this is what living in a small village for generations must have been like.

The cold is coming on. We speculate that most of the shambling walkers won’t make it through the winter in the northern climes, but that they should be fine in the sunshine states. Vacation travelling has gone way down.

Me, I’m not really feeling all that hot, myself. There’s been a lot of work at the power plant, keep things operating. I’m feeling sort of run down. The lights on the drive home were all flashy and hurt my eyes. I’ve put a kettle on the stove for tea. I think I’ll wrap up in my favorite old quilt, stretch out on the couch and watch an old Bogart movie until I finally fall

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