Dead, Wired and Online
The zombie apocalypse will not be televised. You won’t even see it coming.
Blood dripped from the tip of his nose and splashed like a fat red raindrop on the sign-in counter of the Motel-12 off Highway 81 in Bluefield, West Virginia. Sam smiled at the Rubenesque motel clerk wrapped tightly in her white blouse and black polyester slacks, which were bursting at the seams. If she bent down to pick up a paperclip, Sam believed those straining threads would tear to reveal copious amounts of gorgeous, creamy flesh.
Sam smiled, said, “It sure is hot out there.” He gave a palsied chuckle and stared intensely at the little blood spatter. The fresh droplet appeared artificially bright under the harsh fluorescent lights. It looked like movie blood. Maybe this was just a movie; he thought for a moment. Sam wondered if this was what going insane felt like.
“Don’t you worry about a little sweat, darlin’,” the motel clerk said as she wiped up the blood with a napkin from beside her 64 oz cup. It must have been full of iced tea, or soda, or slush-drink, or whatever was almost certainly a sugary concoction colored and flavored with synthetic compounds that might allow her to join the ranks of the undead.
Darling, Sam thought. She called me Darling. He felt a tickle below the waist. His eyes couldn’t help but fall from her light brown eyes sparkling kindly behind her librarian-style glasses to the mounds of ample cleavage framed by her overtaxed white blouse. He noticed she was wearing a black tank top under the blouse that held the whole arrangement together. He loved large women. He found beauty in such soft, round curves. The beauty he found in her contrasted with the searing pain in his forehead.
Sam read in some magazine once, probably in a dentist’s or psychologist’s office, that people under extreme stress can become incredibly horny. It was some base survival instinct that triggered the amygdala — the tiny lizard brain deep inside the larger human brain which our simian forebears never discarded. The amygdala was the brain that evolution wallpapered over. We just built our big monkey thinkers around that little bitty lizard brain and kept on truckin’. Sam was a true believer in what he now thought of as the survival hard-on hypothesis. He verified this phenomenon through rigorous testing in the field. Each time one of the chasers tried to murder him, his desire for a soft embrace grew stronger. It was science.
“Well, still. I’m sorry to get sweat on your counter,” he said and managed to tear his eyes away from her chest just long enough to give her his best smile.
He was grateful that she smiled back with that little crinkle to her nose that meant at the very least that she didn’t find him creepy. This was good. It meant that she couldn’t see the drying blood from his scalp wound and his blood-matted hair for which he felt grateful. Hair and dried blood were the only things holding the crescent-shaped flap of skin to his skull just above his right temple. The last thing that tried to kill him nearly cut the side of his face off with a meat cleaver.
He wondered what he did look like to her. He had been practicing his positive image projections, and lately, women were giving him some attention. This was an entirely new experience. Sam had never been too successful with romance. He found this ironic since he had no time to act on his newfound ability to attract potential mates. He doubted the mind control projection would hold up during close contact in the bedroom. In any case, he was too busy trying to stay alive. He had the world to save. Sam was on a mission.
“Well, I’ll just take the room then… dear,” he said gamely. She ate it up. She flushed a little bit. Sam didn’t have time to see if that flush extended her gorgeous, life-affirming cleavage. She turned to get the room key, and Sam’s eyes followed her from the waist down. The wonderfully round lobes of her buttocks made him salivate. Her thighs looked to him like two Christmas hams wrapped in black polyester. Lizard brain indeed, he thought.
Freddy burst through the door looking studiously calm. Sam could tell Freddy was about to lose his mind.
“Would you come on!” he said, words hissing through teeth clenched so hard they looked near shattering.
Freddy was sweating heavily. Sam looked down at the shimmering blob of white mucous surrounding Freddy’s hand. The blob’s tentacles spiraled halfway up Freddy’s bare arm. Sam was starting to understand the shapes and colors of the tentacles now. They were varying shades of white, purple, black and gray. Sam could tell the colors apart now like those pompous guys at work or the ornery, cut-rate designers who could always tell the color swatches apart without looking at the names or numbers written in impossibly small print. Sam always felt those paint chips were taunting him on a personal level. The paint chips were just more leverage for the entitled jerks at the five-star hotel where Freddy and Sam worked as general maintenance men. Even on the run for his life, Sam chafed at the thought of his old life.
Sam believed the others at work thought that they could treat him and Freddy badly just because they were at an expensive hotel and had just a few scraps of authority. Half those jerks wouldn’t know which end of a screwdriver to turn if their lives depended on it, Sam thought. He couldn’t tell eggshell from goose feather, but he could tell the subtle differences in the striations and shades of color down the quarter-inch diameter tentacles that writhed on Freddy’s arm. But that was another life, and now they were on the run. It had only been six weeks but seemed so long ago. Those familiar shapes and colors on the snot creature meant the chasers were extremely close.
The clerk tossed her bottle-blond hair as she turned back to Sam with a room key and a bright smile. Her eyes fluttered demurely. Sam felt he was falling in love. He appreciated the gesture, although the hair toss was more of a hair-block shift movement, due to a varnish of hairspray that was, by the cloying smell, applied not too long ago. He hoped desperately she didn’t buy her hairspray from the stores they identified only yesterday. The suspect products seemed to be getting ahead of them.
“Thank you so much… dear,” he said, practicing his new smooth-guy rap.
Freddy practically dragged him from the tiny lobby, up the stairs and around the corner to their room.
“Hurry up, idiot! Your BBW fetish is gonna’ get us killed!” Freddy said, his voice a strained hiss.
They found their room on the second floor around the corner from the office. They were just a hundred feet away from the hotel entrance. A balcony ran around the entire second floor and connected all the rooms. They closed the door, and Freddy pulled the .40 caliber Smith and Wesson semi-automatic pistol from his waistband and racked a round into the chamber. He sat down at a desk just inside the hotel room door and placed the pistol down next to the pad and paper that even the cheapest hotels always supplied.
Who takes notes in these flea traps, Freddy thought. I guess somebody used the pad and pen, maybe business types, he concluded. The living mucous on his hand didn’t seem to mind the pistol at all. It just enveloped the grip as if it wasn’t even there. When he placed the snot-hand on his knee, the pale, shimmery substance just sat there calm as ever, forming itself to his patella. It was turning translucent now.
Freddy didn’t even feel it all that much. The snot creature felt like sticking a hand into a vat of gelatin, only softer. In these past couple weeks, he had almost begun to think of the snot-creature-thing as a friend. It was somehow keeping them alive with messages telling of approaching attacks. And it somehow let them control the minds of others. That fact alone made its indelible presence tolerable. Freddy only wished sometimes that it would communicate directly.
“Who do you think it’ll be this time?” Sam asked.
“I don’t know. Maybe it’ll be a flying toaster instead,” Freddy replied.
“How close?” Sam asked nervously.
“Close!” Freddy replied, and looked hopelessly at the door for some form of answer.
Sam pulled the curtain back from the window a couple of inches like a meth addict and peeked out onto the balcony. Nobody there. The hallway was covered in artificial turf. It was a smart choice for a motel, he thought. Someone probably picked it up cheap somewhere. He guessed the same for the carpet. Sam and Freddy had installed both before. Sam recognized the brand from the shape of the little fake grass tufts and also the weave of the carpet. It was cheap carpet. It wouldn’t last. General maintenance men knew a lot more than people gave them credit for. Sam wondered if anyone knew they were trying to save the world and that they probably had a pretty good shot at doing so. Nobody else seemed to know what they knew.
Sam turned with his back to the curtain and said, “You know, Fed —”
The body crashed through the window, sending glass flying around the edges of the curtain. The curtain went with the body and the curtain rod was ripped from the wall near the ceiling so that the arms now wrapped around Sam’s chest also wrapped him in the curtain. Freddy couldn’t get a clear shot. The noise was so loud and sudden that a woman in the next room screamed. Freddy thought the woman in the next room was still screaming but soon realized that it was Sam.