Okay, so remember how I unleashed a zombie virus at Vancouver Fan Expo and promised to write a short story about the top-killing zombie? Behold, FULFILLMENT!
Dr. Chiykowski dashed across West Cordova Street and into the remains of the Vancouver Convention Centre, clutching the briefcase to his chest. Ducking behind the reception desk in the lobby, he threw a glance over his shoulder to check for pursuers. The zombie herd continued to shamble by, unheeding.
He took a moment to catch his breath and check his body over for bite wounds. His lab coat was stained with blood, some old, some new. But there were no rips in the fabric. Clean. He gave a sigh of relief and sat quietly for a minute, letting his nerves untangle. He fumbled with the latch of his briefcase and opened it, revealing a small syringe. It contained the only dose of Zom-B-Gone counter-virus in the world—a dose he had engineered not hours earlier.
Outside, the night air was full with the groans of zombies and the sound of their clumsy feet dragging on concrete. In the months since the April outbreak, the sprawling marble floors of the convention centre had lost their polish. Here and there, streaks and pools of dried blood marked the tiles where the bodies had fallen during the initial stampede to escape the building. Those bodies were gone now, staggered off to hunt for fresh meat and brains.
This was wear it had all happened. This was where Patient Zero first came to life.
Patient Zero. God, she had done some damage, hadn’t she? Andrea Magee had been such a friendly soul in her first life. Dr. Chiykowski had even thought, Hey, wouldn’t it be great if we could work together on some kind of large-scale convention experiment? But that was ridiculous. She was a smelly zombie now, and smelly zombies don’t have lab partners. Who’d have known that injecting a dose of ravenously aggressive Z-virus would have turned into such a slavering monster? Actually, Dr. Chiykowski had known that, but he did it anyway, because his duty to science was greater than his duty to sanity.
Now his duty to science has brought him back. If he could infect Patient Zero with the Zom-B-Gone counter-virus, she would become human. Then she could start biting and infecting zombies with the “human plague” and turn the tide. It would be kind of gross, admittedly, biting all those zombies, but it would also be scientifically titillating. Hopefully he would win an award or something. Nobel Prize committee, take note!
Dr. Chiykowski snapped out of his self-aggrandizing reverie at the sound of slow, shambling footsteps in the courtyard outside. He held his breath, barely daring to move. One, maybe two zombies. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Feet lurching through broken glass. The wet squelch of rotten lungs inhaling. The doctor could smell the decay in the air, like old eggs coated in a sheen of convention sweat. They were getting closer. He crouched and prepared to run.
Just then a zombie staggered around the corner of the desk, catching Dr. Chiykowski off-guard. He sprang his feet, arms wind-milling as he stumbled away the horrid creature. He stopped when he bumped into something solid. Something solid, soft, and rank. It snarled, and Chiykowski realized what had happened.
The Bromleys. The most dreaded zombie duo in the city. Sarah and Clayton Bromley hunted in as a pair, timing their movements. Who could say how many they had slaughtered since that fateful day in April. Hundreds? Thousands? Billions? No, probably not billions. That’s definitely too many.
Clayton Bromley, the larger of the two, closed his hands around Dr. Chiykowski’s shoulders and leaned in for a bite. Shrieking in a way that was still manly somehow, Chiykowski twisted out of his lab coat and tried to pull away. But Sarah Bromley wrapped a hand around his ankle and held on tight. Chiykowski tripped and fell to the floor. The syring fell from his hand and rolled across the lobby toward the back of the building. The taste of copper flooded his mouth as his teeth closed on his tongue.
He kicked his leg free of his shoe and began crawling toward the syringe, the bare skin of his elbows squeaking against the floor. Ten feet away. Five. Four. Three. Two. One.
A foot stepped on his outstretched hand with a crunch. He felt the impact up his arm, and even the sound of the bones of his fingers breaking made his stomach lurch. Looking up through tears of (totally manly) pain, he almost couldn’t believe what he saw.
Jennifer O’Donnell. No shambling undead horror had caused so much destruction as this hungry zombie. It was uncanny how she hunted, almost as if she had human intelligence. Months of exposure to Z-virus had eaten away her face so she pretty much looked like lasagna with teeth. She smiled the friendly smile she had been known for in life, but without lips to cover her putrefying gums, she looked like the mouths printed on the sides of cigarette cartons. There was something almost oddly human about that smile, like behind the zombified flesh was a thinking brain.
“Braaaaiiiiiinsssss…” said Jennifer.
“No!” said Dr. Chiykowski. “I need these! Get your own!”
“Braaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiiinsssss…” she said again, with a few more vowels for good measure. She kneeled over the prone doctor.
“Please, I can stop the plague! The counter-agent!”
He rolled onto his back and punched upward with his one good hand. A glancing blow. She didn’t even notice. Clayton and Sarah were there too, now, crawling over him.
“No! No!” he screamed, ever masculine.
But rather than going to town on his prone body, the zombies merely held him down. Why aren’t they attacking? he wondered.
A grunt came from down the hall. From the darkness emerged a woman in a white hospital gown, walking on a broken ankle. The smell of rot filled the air.
Patient Zero. She was still moving, after all this time. Dr. Chiykowski watched in shock as she shuffled forward and joined the pack, until each of the four zombies was pinning one of his limbs to the cold stone floor. He tried to pull himself, but he couldn’t budge. They looked down at him, slavering. Hot saliva dripped down from Patient Zero’s mouth and onto his cheek.
“What are you waiting f—” the doctor began.
And that was when she struck. Jennifer O’Donnell lunged downward and sank her teeth into the meat of Dr. Chiykowski’s shoulder. She always was a last-minute kill-stealer!
The doctor cried out (admittedly not so manly this time around) and the zombies began their grisly work. The Bromleys went for his stomach, tearing open his abdomen and pulling out handfuls of entrails. Who’d have thunk one human would have so many guts? Well, Dr. Chiykowski was a doctor, apparently, so maybe he should have thunk that.
Patient Zero grabbed an arm and starting gnawing, her teeth snapping tendons and tearing through tissue. Peter groaned as pain overtook his body.
He fought to stay conscious. His eyes flickered open and closed, trying to focus on Jennifer O’Donnell’s face. That knowing smile. Too knowing.
“Y-y-you’re… you’re not a zombie, are you?” he stammered, his strength feeling.
She looked at him a moment, and then winked as she bit deep and her teeth scraped against his collarbone through a mouthful of meat.
“You can think, can’t you? You’re… you’re just doing this for fun. You’re— ”
Her teeth ripped into his throat, silencing him. The doctor gasped and shuddered, blood bubbling out of the wound.
Jennifer smiled to herself as the zombies continued their meal. She was special. She had learned to master the brain-hungry rage of the zombie infection a long time ago. She was something greater now. Something half-human, half-zombie—a humbie, if you will.
She looked down at the Zom-B-Gone syringe and thought for a moment. I could take it and end this plague, she realized. I could make the city safe and peaceful again. I could make sure no human ever eats a fellow human again.
She slammed her heel down on the syringe, shattering the glass.
But where’s the fun in that?