We sat there in silence, the smiles still on our face, and I thought that it was nice to see that even though the worlds all gone to hell, something’s never changed.
A moment later the screen door burst open and the trailer rocked from side to side as Mary Jane came into the trailer, ran across the room and locked herself in one of the backrooms.
I looked at my crew and shrugged my shoulders and said “ Well guys lets pack it up, looks like the interviews over.”
As we piled into the van I thought to myself that the interview had gone rather well and hadn’t been a complete waste of time. We ended up getting some pretty interesting history on Ray that could explain some of his anti social behavior and we were lucky we were there when we had heard about cousin Clyde. Chances were he was bit by a zombie so I decided that we should pay him a visit before he turned so we could get some more background information about Ray as well because it was Clyde’s house that Ray had seemed to spend much of his childhood at.
It was getting late into the morning so we decided to grab an early lunch before heading across town to do our next interview and we stopped at what was once a bustling dinner, set in the middle of the financial district.
As we sat down I looked out the huge reinforced plate glass window into the city and was still surprised that even after three months of living with the carnage that we endured daily, how empty the streets were, especially at this time of day.
Several months ago this would have been choked full of people on the sidewalk or in the cars, all going about there individual errands, each more important than the others. But now between the outrageously high death toll and the evacuation, the city seemed more or less like a ghost town.
Nearly nobody walked the streets any longer, except for an occasional zombie or two and the cities newest task force, The Clean Up Crew.
As we sat in the booth discussing how we wanted to approach the interview with Charles Slouchowski, the head grounds keeper at the recently renamed “They Staydown Cemetery”, a zombie came casually stumbling across the street and collided with the window leaving a streak of filth and gore upon it.
Let me take a moment here and explain something to you about zombies. Zombies in general are not as you have seen them commonly depicted in movies or in books. The movies and books got it correct that they are not fast and that they are stupid but they do not just eat you for the brains. They will eat any part of you happily as long as it is in reach of there hands or there gapping mouths.
As a general rule a zombie is a solitary creature and they move really, really slow and they are very clumsy so it’s almost impossible for one of them to sneak up on you. Because of being clumsy and stupid they are not coordinated enough or smart enough to utilizing things that are laying about as a weapon which makes dealing with the lone zombie an easy thing to do.
The only time you will see them traveling about in a large group is if they had all just suddenly died together, say in a bus crash, or if they are very, very hungry. But let me just say this again, because they are dumb and slow you can usually just scare them off even in small numbers.
That being said I watched the zombie in morbid fascination, only slightly appalled at its appearance, as it continued to bounce of the front window until a waiter eventually went outside to try and chase it away with a broom, hitting it repeatedly upon the head and buttocks until it finally left.
Like I said, not much like the books or movies at all.
About twenty minutes later we were paying for the meal when we heard a shot ring out and echo off the empty streets and abandoned buildings.
The gunshots, as well as the zombies, were now an everyday occurrence that anyone who chose to still live in the guarantee zone has come to live with.
The gunshot had given me an idea of what our next show could be about and I made a mental note to locate some of the men and women that dedicated themselves to eliminating the zombie menace and interview them, The Clean Up Crew.
There job was simple, one group would search outwards in a sweeping move killing all the zombies that they could scare out into the open by making a lots of load noises. A second group would bring up the rear in large flat bed trucks and collect the twice dead bodies and bring them to the incinerator sites that were located throughout the city. In this way they hoped to have the city free of zombies before the end of the year, just as long as we could keep the new zombie body count down.
As I climbed back into the van I thought it all seemed pretty interesting and I that it would defiantly make for a good program.
We drove through the city, periodically having to swerve and weave through abandoned cars and try to miss the occasional zombie. In the beginning of the outbreak it had been fun to just run them over but not too many people did this anymore for two really good reasons.
The first being you really couldn’t tell how decomposed the body you were aiming to hit was and if you got a really old one and you hit it good, then it left an awful mess to clean up. The second reason falls on the heals of the first and that is if the zombie was relatively fresh and you didn’t hit it hard enough it might not, well you really can’t say die because it’s already dead, but stop existing. So when you got to wherever it was you were going and got out of your vehicle there might be a nasty surprise waiting for you still cling onto your vehicle somewhere waiting to take a bite out of you.
Over all it was just safer and cleaner if you just avoided them and left the killing to the professionals.
So we continued along dogging and weaving, occasionally making fun of some of those that were still trapped in there cars until about a half an hour later we arrived at our destination.
As we drove through the wrought iron gated entrance we saw a hastily posted sign that read “When we bury them, they stay buried, and if not, you receive a full refund on services rendered.”
Classy, real classy.
A few minutes later we were at the ground keeper’s office, set up and ready to roll.
Interviewer: We know you’re busy so thanks for seeing us.
Mr. Slouchowski: First off, call me Slouch, everyone does and secondly, I not as busy as you would expect.
Interviewer: Why is that?
Slouch: Well it seems to me that no one is bothering to bury
there loved ones no more and I don’t mean there cremating
them. Nope, they just figure it’s cheaper and easier to drop them off outside when they die, figuring they will eventually
get up and wander away in a bit.
Interviewer: Oh my God! Are you serious?
Slouch: Oh yeah, most defiantly. Why just the other day I
witnessed three different families putting somebody out by
the front curb and when I returned later that night the bodies were gone.
Interviewer: Maybe the clean up crew came by and picked
Slouch: Nope, wrong again. As I was coming into work the next day I saw the same three dead people walking around the neighborhoods were they were dumped off in.
Interviewer: (stunned look of disbelief)
Slouch: Another thing that’s becoming popular, a bit dangerous if you ask me, is a dump and run.
Interviewer: I think I already know what that is but would you mind explaining what that is and why it’s dangerous to our viewers.
Slouch: Well a dump and run is when ya got your typical
corpse and you can’t or won’t bury them so, as soon as they
kicked it, you rush them out into a car or truck and get them
as far away from your house and neighborhood as you can, and then dump them.
The reason it’s so dangerous is two fold. The first being you just don’t know when they are going to wake up and when they do there pretty hungry and you are the first thing they see.
Second reason its dangerous is because it’s illegal as all hell and if you get caught doing it, God help you.
Interviewer: So if it’s illegal and dangerous then why are people doing it?
Slouch: I can only guess, but a couple things come to mind. First off it’s free. Burials were never inexpensive but with all the
new measures we have to take it’s jacked the price up
somewhat. Also, why shell out all that money if the corpse is going to dig itself out again. The other thing is, would you want someone you know who has just died hanging out in your neighborhood? Hell no!
Interviewer: Okay, so it’s free. I noticed the new sign on the
way in. How is your company proposing to do this, keep
them down I mean?
Slouch: You see what we do is before we dump them into the ground, we wrap the coffin up good and tight with chains, but here the kicker, we also cut the hands off of the corpse after everyone’s said there goodbyes and left. No hands, no way of clawing there way back out. It does however get noisy around hear in the evenings.
Interviewer: How’s that!!
Slouch: Well, when it’s real quiet, you can hear them screaming and moving about underground. Gets a bit on your nerves after awhile.
Interviewer: No I meant about there hands. You mean to tell
me that at the gravesite, after the service and the priest and everyone leaves, someone comes out and just lops there hand off. Do your customers know your doing this?
Slouch: Not anyone, I do it. Its part of the new job description and as for the customers knowing about it, I would imagine
so. The salesmen that sell the lots to these people have to get a signature on a special form, you know like a disclosure.
Interviewer: That seems awful morbid and a bit of overkill don’t you think?
Slouch: Hell no. What are you some kind of zombie lover?
Look, with just the chains they would eventually still break
through the lid and then it would be just a matter of time
before they were able to wiggle through the chains. This
extra measure just ensures that there will be no more dead bodies getting up and walking around.
Interviewer: I’m surprised you just don’t cut off there feet as
Slouch: That’s a different service and its starts at the knees.
Interviewer: (shaking his head slowly from side to side) What
happens if the customer refuses to sign the form allowing
you to perform this service?
Slouch: Well first, if the corpse does dig it’s way out then the customer forfeits any rights to a refund and to ensure no lawsuits happen we have them sign a different form for that and secondly, we have a contingency plan in place if the customer doesn’t sign the “hand” form.
Interviewer: I’m almost afraid to ask, but what is the back up
Slouch: Well, they still get the chains but we burry them
upside down. This way, if they if they do get out, they just keep digging in the wrong direction.
I think those are the ones you can hear the loudest because there lost and frustrated and getting pissed that they can’t get out. It’s kind of funny if you think about it Can you just imagine it, they break out, think heck I only got six feet to go, but instead there lost just digging and digging and digging, always heading in the wrong direction for the rest of eternity, stupid zombies.
Interviewer: Okay, let’s change the subject and talk about Ray for awhile, what was he like to work with?
Slouch: Well let me see, Ray simply put, was a weirdo. I think
he was made for this job because all he ever did was speculate and wonder what it was like to be dead and if there was anything after you died.
Any time we would be out fixing up the grave sights or digging the holes he would go on and on and on about it. Many times I had to tell him to shut the hell up but he would never listen.
Interviewer: So this was a daily thing with him?
Slouch: Daily, hell it was hourly! But other than that he was a good guy, hard worker and a trusty friend. Problem was he took all this too seriously and it seemed it was the only thing he ever talked or thought about. He was obsessed.
Interviewer: Anything else?
Slouch: Well, it got so bad with him that he eventually started wondering what it would be like to come back from the dead or even what it would be like to be dead. At this point I really started worrying about him and started watching him closely, making sure he wasn’t suicidal. Then one day he caught me staring at him, apparently this was not the first time either, and asked me what I was doing. I felt I owed it to him, so I explained.
Interviewer: How did he react to that?
Slouch: He just stared at me and then started to laugh for a bit and when he finally got a hold of himself, he looked at me real serious like and said “Slouch, I don’t want to die, I want to live forever, I want to see and do everything that this world has to offer.”
Slouch: I started to say something but at the time I wasn’t in the mood to get sucked into one of his conversations so I just let it drop.
Interviewer: What happened after that?
Slouch: Well, later that day he helped me drop a few bodies and then I didn’t see him for a few days because management asked him to do security overnight.
Interviewer: It was during one of those nights that things changed, right?
Slouch: I suppose so. I originally wondered if it was just another one of his whacked out stories but then the world started to go all to hell.
Interviewer: Can you try and remember what it was he told you?
Slouch: Remember hell! It’s burned into my brain
(There are a few minutes of silence)
Slouch: Sorry. Didn’t realize you wanted me to repeat it. I’ll give you the gist of it, but you really need to hear it from Ray and hear the honesty in his voice as he tells it.
Interviewer: We will, were seeing him later today.
Slouch: Okay, so three days go by, that’s after the last time I saw him and he comes to work looking like death himself. I say to him “Ray, cheese and crackers boy I didn’t figure you the drinking type” and he just kind of shakes his head and walks silently away to start work.
Our plow was out of service that week so we had been filling in the holes by hand and that afternoon I needed some help filling in one so I called Ray over to lend me a hand. He was very reluctant at first, but I pulled the boss thing and told him to get his ass over here and help me.
He hemmed and hawed but finally came over and turned two shades whiter as I watched. I’m all like “What’s gotten into you Ray, you’ve seen coffins before” and without saying another word he starts shoveling.
After my third shovel full I happen to look down and notice that the coffins lid had been left slightly open. So I tell Ray to hold on a minute and I jump down into the pit and as I'm struggling to put the lid back on, I notice the coffin is empty.
Great I think and yell up to Ray to tell him what I found.
It’s kind of hard to see or hear when you’re down in these holes and when he didn’t answer, I clawed my way back out and found him passed out on the ground.
Interviewer: What did you do at this point?
Slouch: Well, I needed to report this to both my manager and the police, but I knew Ray had been working the night this guy had been planted, and I didn’t want Ray getting into any trouble. So before going to the head man I shook Ray awake.
Slouch: Your impatient you know that, I’m going to tell you just hold on. Well anyways according to Ray, that’s when it all started.
Interviewer: I’m not following you.
Slouch: Okay! This is what Ray told me now so whatever I say remember that and don’t think me crazy or nothing…okay?
Slouch: So Ray tells me he’s out walking the plots one night and it’s about two in the morning. Suddenly from far away he hears this whistling type noise and it’s continuingly getting louder.
So Ray’s guard is up and he stops walking to see if he could determine where the noise is coming from. All of a sudden it’s not so dark anymore and the noise has become unbearable.
Just then Ray looks up and sees heading straight at him this blazing object falling out of the night sky, getting bigger and brighter the whole time and as Ray stood there watching it, it suddenly exploded high up in the air.
Ray of course turned his head to avoid the brilliant flash of light while around him he sees this dust like substance falling to the ground all around and on him.
Then, as he turns his attentions back to the sky, he starts to feel this overwhelming pain consuming his whole body but the worst he said was when his brain started feeling like it was melting right inside his skull and it became so unbearable that he passed out before he was able to do anything.
Interviewer: Come on your not serious! What could have caused that?
Slouch: Hey, I’m just telling you what he told me.
Interviewer: Okay, let’s say it’s true, what happened next?.
Slouch: Well, I basically had the same reaction as you until he showed me all the burn marks in the grass. They were all near the grave with the missing body and then he showed me his head, I couldn’t believe what I was freaking seeing.
Interviewer: Which was?
Slouch: Everything he had just told me was true and he had the proof to back it up especially after he removed his hat and I saw all his hair gone and his head was all blacken plus don’t forget there were all those reports in the paper of people seeing the unexplained flash of light in the sky on that night.
I then asked him if he had seen a doctor and he told me he did but there was nothing they could do. He said that there was something alive in the dust that did this to him and if the Doctors tried to kill it then he would probably die as well
Then I say, “Okay let’s say I believe you Ray, but where is Mr. So and So’s body at?” For an answer he asks me if I remember how he is always on about coming back from the dead or being dead and so on and I say to him "what's that got to do with anything” and he just looks at me and goes on saying that he was thinking these things when whatever it was that fell out of the sky had got all over him.
So I look at him all confused like and then he says that after getting back of the ground, he turns around and starts heading back to the office to get the first aid kit when all of a sudden from behind him he hears this low moaning noise followed by a loud scrapping sound.
Upon he hearing this he turns around just in time to see Mr. So and So slowly climbing back out of his grave.
Interviewer: So he’s our first zombie?
Slouch: Yep. Anyways Ray just stands there with his mouth hanging open staring at the thing. Finally it manages to pull itself completely out of the grave and turns to face Ray.
At this point Ray has pissed himself in fear and Mr. So and So gives Ray a little bow, turns away while scratching his head; almost like he’s wondering which way to go and then just like that he starts to walk away leaving Ray standing there all alone, unsure what to do next.
Interviewer: Is there anything else you care to add before we conclude our interview?
Slouch: After that day Ray stopped coming into work and answering my calls. I was worried about him especially after all those kids in his neighborhood were killed. I’ve not seen him since that day in the cemetery.
Couple things more if you don’t mind. First thing it’s about these freaking zombies.
For the next few mornings as we made our rounds through the cemetery we would occasionally find holes in the ground above a fresh grave site. At first we were unsure what had caused them but we do now but here at “They Staydown Cemetery” we know just how to make them do just that, stay down.
The last thing I would like to say is in regards to Ray. Whatever you do, don’t judge him too harshly and try to remember that he is a victim in this as much as anyone else. Sure he has meteor dust eating away at him and it’s giving him some kind of mutant power to raise the dead but he was just in the wrong place at the right time, or something like that, and it could have easily happened to me or anyone else for that matter.
Or if you do decide to judge him poorly also remember he tried on several occasions to turn himself in and to let people know what was happening but no one took him serious; that is until the zombies really started to get to work.
We’ll that’s pretty much all I have to say. Thanks for giving me the chance to help out a friend.