Monday, October 27, 2008

Eddie's Tale

This is a zombie story for Halloween week. It's divided into four parts, so it will end on Thursday. Those of you with other obligations, some light haunting, ghoulish mayhem, or like me, manning the door dolling out candy - will not miss the end of it.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

PART ONE: The Present

He coasted downhill on his mountain bike, its well-oiled freewheel almost silent. The light morning fog served to muffle his noise even further. Up ahead, a lone figure clad in rags shuffled along. Eddie gripped the bolo machete tighter and prepared to attack. His tactical position was good, what fighter pilots called “the Hun in the sun.” His target was a slow-moving zombie further down the hill. Her back was turned and she was alone. Eddie planned to pass her on the left, using the razor sharp machete to slice through the hamstrings just above and behind the knee. This didn't require much force, just a tap really, because he didn't want to overbalance, or worse, wedge the machete in her femur and lose it. He'd circle around and finish off the nearly immobilized zombie quite easily. He'd learned not to strike at the head, partly because it took more force, and partly because a last-second miss had thrown him off balance nearly causing a crash. He did not want to be lying in a heap on the ground with hungry zombies in the area.

Eddie learned quickly, adding to his knowledge daily or even hourly. He had incentive: learn or die. A week earlier, he lived a different life.


Eddie was a bicycle messenger. He made a modest income delivering packages and papers around town, supplementing it with small time drug deals or by boosting goodies out of an unlocked car. He wasn't greedy, just “work averse” and the money covered his minimal expenses for food, mountain biking, and occasional rock climbing trips in the mountains.

That morning, just before everything changed, Eddie stood in line at Rachel's Café, waiting for the insufferable barista to make a long-winded beverage for another equally insufferable customer. She stood in front of him. The woman fumed, hostility rolling off her in waves. Moments earlier, as Eddie rode toward Rachel's, she drove up behind him in a sleek, black Lexus and laid on the horn for at least 10 seconds before doing a right hook in front of his bicycle. He had to brake hard to avoid her. That put her just seconds ahead of him at the café door. “Big deal”, he thought.

She barked her coffee order. Eddie stood near enough to make her uncomfortable. He fished out his filthy handkerchief and blew his nose loudly. She stiffened. He did it again, then coughed into her hair, making the strands move. Still she did nothing.

It was often like this, Eddie noted. In their cars, people felt safe cocooned in a ton or more of steel and glass. They could be real dicks - until they got out. They weren't nearly as aggressive face to face.

The fussy woman collected her coffee, a multi-muddicato caramel whatever, and marched off toward a window table, steadfastly refusing to make eye contact. Eddie noted that she smoothed her hair quickly, perhaps feeling for boogers. The thought made him smile.

He was still smiling as the barista, a petite blond, stood coldly waiting for his order. Her name tag said, "Suzie." They shared an intense mutual dislike. Eddie once asked her to join him for lunch, and she said, "Sorry, I don't hang out with losers." The next day, he stole her tip jar, making sure she knew he'd done it.

Eddie got his coffee, then he too went off for a window table. There was an open one just behind the Lexus bitch. He farted loudly as he sat down. She was up and gone in seconds. He grinned again.

He spent the day delivering various packages, some legal papers to the courthouse, and a few 'roids to a campus jock. In late afternoon, he pedaled home to a house near the defunct glass plant. A forlorn row of houses stood like the last sentinels between the old factory and the growing industrial park to the south. Every house was for sale but few were occupied. Buyers were non-existent. There would be no gentrification here, no reprieve. Sometime soon the houses would be swallowed up. But in the meantime, rent was cheap.

His roomies were already home. Music blasted from open windows. He lived with Donna, his on-again-off-again girlfriend, and his climbing buddy, Dog the Party Animal. Eddie and Donna were edging toward a deeper relationship, a process that was both exhilarating and frightening for both of them. Dog watched in amusement, but wisely kept his mouth shut.

Eddie put his bike in the shed. Donna and Dog were in the living room, arguing as usual. This time it was over football. “Hey!” Eddie yelled to be heard. “You guys bought beer! Great! Do we have any groceries?”

Dog just pointed toward the kitchen since it was Eddie's turn to cook. He found a paper sack on the counter. It had pasta, spaghetti sauce, frozen meatballs, and a bag of salad mix. An open twelve-pack of beer sat next to it. Eddie helped himself to a cold one and started making dinner.

While they ate, Eddie said, “There sure were a lot of cops around the courthouse today. Lots more than usual. Even some state troopers were there, about a dozen of them. They had dogs too. What's going on? Have you guys heard anything?”

“Just a rumor,” Donna began, “about some kind of disease going around.”

“You're full of shit,” Dog countered. The two of them could argue about the time of day. “There isn't any disease. It's just an excuse to bring more cops into town for a big football weekend.”

That much was true. The college homecoming game was coming up on Saturday. The recreational drug business would be brisk this week.

“What was the rumor about the disease?” Eddie asked. He wasn't in the mood for a long, rambling argument.

Donna said, “Just something about a kind of flu that's going around.”

They didn't give it another thought. Monday Night Football was starting.

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