This is a novella of some 25,000 words. It is about a person who wakes up and discovers that he is a zombie. It is not told in the first person, but it is basically exploring the zombie’s side, rather than just seeing the animated dead as nothing more than monsters to be shotgunned and chainsawed down.
As may be imagined, this novella is not entirely serious; but any humour is quite dark. In creating this tale, I wanted to tell the sort of tale which, as far as I knew, had not been told before. Surely that is what all authors should strive to do when putting pen to paper, or finger to keyboard. For me it is finger to keyboard, these days, but only the index finger of my right hand. Despite all of the many things which I have written in the past, I am still a one-fingered typist.
I could probably have extended this novella, but I don’t like stuffing stories with material which any good editor should have excised, anyway. I think that all stories, however short, however long, have their own natural length. Some of my tales are one hundred thousand words long. This one was only a quarter of that.
Zombies, in media, are known more for films than for novels. Is there a classic zombie novel? No doubt somebody will email to tell me that there is, but none comes to mind as I write these words – unlike some of the other monsters, such as vampires (Dracula, I Am Legend), haunted houses (The Legend of Hill House) and constructs (Frankenstein).
I make no claims for this novella being anything like those above works. But I do hope that it might entertain one or two of you.
Extract from Z Stands For Zombie
The shiny metal table is cold, in this medical tableau. A body lies on the cold, cold, stainless steel; but the body will not shiver, because it is dead. It waits the knife, the explorations of the reasons for the body being there. No obvious signs of death.
Naked as in birth, all skin revealed to the world, you can’t have shame when you’re dead. It’s pretty obvious that you’re not Jewish, Mr Dead Man. Not many people other than the coroner will see you, anyway. And he’s seen it all before.
The scalpels are ready for first incision. They’ve been sterilised, but why? It’s not as though a dead man is going to have to worry about infection. All that the blades need are a hand to hold them, fingers twisted around the metal.
There is no heartbeat. The lungs aren’t working. That is a pretty good indication of death, in most cases. So why is one arm twitching?
Put electricity through a dead frog and it will twitch. But there is no electricity running through this corpse. The overhead lights aren’t even one. Nobody to see that one arm’s tic. So of course it couldn’t have happened, like trees falling down in a forest and not making a sound because nobody’s there to hear them. A bolt of lightning animating Frankenstein’s monster in the old horror movies. They were the best, weren’t they? Val Lewton at Rank, and then Hammer Horror. But there is no lightning. And this is not a film. And Boris Karloff is a long time dead.
There it goes again. The arm twitched for a second time. Something is most definitely not right here. Dead men aren’t supposed to move. It’s one of the certainties of life: that, and taxes.
It must be some post death freak occurrence. Like when a body releases gas. All of the horrible things that you never saw before (well, not until CSI came along to separate your tea from its stomach).
What is death? You might as well ask what is life: what is that motive spark that separates a living, breathing human being from a hunk of flesh on a mortuary slab? It has long been something debated by the philosophers of this blue orb. Few philosophers ever reached the same conclusion as to its intent or meaning. The closest that the greatest of them ever got was the number forty two.
A finger taps on the metal of the table, not loud enough for anybody to hear it. Perhaps there is no noise – another tree in the forest? The same fingers of the arm that twitched. there is definitely something going on there. Something that shouldn’t be going on there, not unless it’s around the year thirty something anno domini and these guys called either Lazarus or Jesus. But there’s no sign that he’s a leper (nothing has dropped off yet) and there’s definitely no thorn pricks around his forehead. As it has been stated, there is no indication of how this guy died. No wounds at all.
So there’s been a mistake. This guy’s not really dead after all. Errors do happen. Nope, sorry. This body is dead, and has been dead for the past day. That should mean absolutely zero brain activity. No oxygenated blood going to the brain equals cellular death of the little grey cells. Well, it’s supposed to. It always has before. But this corpse may just be a little bit different.
The arm feels the steel table that it’s on. It tries to, but the fingers have lost much of their sense of touch. They can’t tell that they’re on something cold. Only that they’re on something hard.
Nothing else works. The eyes won’t open, the torso won’t sit up, and the other arm is hors de combat. Well, the body is dead, after all. It’s pretty miraculous that one arm is working.
The arm feels the body, the fingers walking like a spider. Are they surprised to find that the body is naked? If so, they aren’t saying anything.
The left arm – that’s the mobile one – feels the right one, tries to massage some life back into it. It’s a bit too late for that, sugar. The arm doesn’t move. Not yet – but it will, given time. You can have all the time in the world, when you’re dead. It’s not like you’ve got death staring you in the face. Usually, it’s only the underside of a coffin lid.
There is a groan. Perhaps it was supposed to be a sentence. Or words. But it only comes out as a groan. Which rather disproves the tree-falling-down-in-a-forest theory, I’m afraid. And it shows that the vocal cords are working, at least to some extent. But there are definitely no identifiable words.
The groan is a little high-pitched, considering the gender of the person (can a corpse still be a person?) emitting it. He’s definitely gonna fail that audition for the remake of Dawn Of The Dead. (There’s always some remake of Dawn Of The Dead going on: they just give it different titles. But the plots pretty much the same: zombies take over, but there are a few survivors left to fight the good fight). Perhaps he’s auditioning for a comedy zombie movie. But how are you going to improve on Shaun Of The Dead?
The body on the slab isn’t worrying about such considerations at the moment. It’s wondering where it is, why it has lost nearly all feeling, and why it’s having so much trouble moving. There is a massive effort of will (rather disproving the idea that its brain is tabula rasa) and the dead thing sits up on the slab. But it hasn’t quite got the hang of where gravity is yet (problems with having a dead inner ear) and it promptly tumbles off the slab and onto the floor. Luckily, being dead, it feels no pain (that is about the only plus side to not having your nervous system working properly). But it was a comedic moment that even the great Mack Sennett would have been proud of.
Its left arm flailed out (that’s the working one, remember?) and catches the metal tray with all of the unnecessarily antiseptic metal items on it. The scalpels and all of the other strange bits and pieces are sent flying into the air, before coming down on the hard floor with a clatter. That forceps will definitely need a wash now, if it is ever found in its new hiding place behind the cupboard.
The right arm is working now. It would help if the legs were, though. They refused to obey the mental command of this dead man. But both arms began scrabbling around, and found the metal slab from which the body had fallen. They pull the body up, holding on to the top.
Z Stands For Zombie is available as an e-book on the Amazon Kindle store.