Meanwhile at the veterinary clinic, Lucien is up and walking around, well hobbling but you know, aided by a makeshift crutch that in its former life was an IV rack for a golden retriever.
Elvis watches with concern “How does that feel?”
Lucien is puttering around at a good pace “I guess I won’t be ballroom dancing any time soon but yeah, this works. I could get used to this – it’s like having three legs. Which doesn’t sound like much but hey, no one could beat me in Indian wrestling if I was like this all the time right? Er, Native American wrestling?”
Elvis smiles but before he can say anything, Duke interrupts “Well there you go then, he’s fine. So tell me, does this happen a lot in America, because I don’t remember anyone saying anything to me about zombies here. Is it seasonal or what triggers the zombie bloom? Do they only come out at a certain time of the year? Why doesn’t the government do something about it?”
He breaks off with a scream as a zombie lurches through the window and clamps onto his meaty shoulder with its jagged broken teeth. The zombie folds him in a deadly embrace and they fall to the ground locked in each other’s arms. The undead monster biting and clawing like a feral cat being shoved into a gunny sack. Blood is rocketing up everywhere, like a Johnny Depp Nightmare on Elm Street amount of blood. Lucien goes to help him as best he can, but more zombies are trying to fall in through the shattered window and he grabs a large metal instrument tray, shoving it in front of the broken window and blocking them off as they snarl and snap like rabid wombats. Elvis screams and backs into a corner as Duke tries vainly to fight the creature off.
Lucien puts his shoulder into the metal tray, barely keeping the tide back “For the love of god Elvis, help Duke!”
But Elvis can’t move, he watches on in horror as Duke’s struggles prove fruitless, the horrible undead thing on his back pinning him down. Elvis is unable to act as he sees the zombie swallow pieces of Duke’s arm and shoulder, watching the human meat bulge down its gullet. Duke is hysterically shouting and Lucien looks on in agony – he can’t move from his spot or more zombies will come pouring in but he’s desperate to help Duke. Finally Elvis springs into action, grabbing a handful of syringes and jamming them into the zombie’s back – which has about as much effect as a dry spitball. Elvis frantically looks around the room, finally spying a fire extinguisher. He grabs it wildly and smashes the zombie on the head again and again in a mindless frenzy. By the time he realizes what he’s doing, the zombie’s head is nothing more than a grey pile of mush and Duke is covered with nauseating ichor. Elvis stumbles backwards and numbly drops the fire extinguisher to the floor – staring at his bloody hands.
Duke laboriously rolls the dead (again) body off of him with a loud thump “If that happens again, don’t worry about it Elvis, take your time, there’s no hurry – its only my fucking life at stake!”
Duke lurches to his feet and lends his weight to the metal tray Lucien is leaning against, using his good arm to start wrapping up the mangled one. He’s just about to ask what they’re going to do when the zombies figure out they can come in from the front door when Tina, Martialla, and Ela return – armed with their trusty axe (which Martialla has commandeered) and shovel.
Ela starts directing traffic “Martialla, go help hold them back. Tina, continue being useless. Okay, our plan has been altered by circumstances outside of my control. The new plan is just wander around aimlessly wherever zombies let us go, like teenagers avoiding a mall cop. If we see any place that might have anything useful along the way, we’ll stop and pick it up. Okay? Okay. Let’s make like a tree and blow this pop stand.”
Tina and Elvis lead the way with Lucien and Duke bringing up the middle. Ela and Martialla hold the tray until the last second and then run after their companions, zombies pouring in after them like a gumballs out of a broken machine as soon as they let go. In the street, they’re confronted by more zombies coming on at several different vectors. They beat feet the only way open to them and get as much distance as they can between themselves and the ravenous horde behind them. After a minute, they stop to catch their breath.
Ela clutches at her chest “God almighty I need to do more cardio. I need to get a Bowflex or something.”
Martialla points “Look, we can cut through the petting zoo there.”
Ela shakes her head “No, I say we head for the aquarium. I’m not getting nibbled to death by a god damn zombie goat. The aquarium is the best place for us to be anyway.”
Lucien leans/hops into a better position with his makeshift crutch “Why’s that?”
“Because zombies hate water, they probably won’t go in there.”
Everyone stares at her for a minute and finally Elvis asks “They do?”
Ela heads for the aquarium “Of course, that’s common knowledge.”
Duke shakes his head “You’re thinking of vampires. And that’s running water.”
Martialla frowns “Didn’t you spray a zombie with your clown bottle and it did nothing?”
Ela glared at her, the effect only made slightly less effective on account of her clown suit “Shut up Martialla!”
Underwater Paradise, once a popular vacation destination, once a source of joy and wonderment, once a celebration of life in all its forms (well not all of them, just the aquatic ones I guess) is now the refuge of desperate people. People numb from the shock of mind-shattering horror. The living dead roam the streets of Sueno Beach, tireless in their search for the warm flesh of the living. Driven ever onward, unceasingly, unthinkingly, uncaringly, by their bedeviling hunger for still living. These people, these survivors, hide out in the lobby of Underwater Paradise, crouched down behind the ticket counter. They try to stay far away from the half-eaten remains of the hapless ticket-taker – his reward for working late.
Duke and Lucien sit together against the wall, neither of them doing so well – their injuries are starting to catch up with them. Lucien can’t move very quickly with his distorted leg, but he’s better off than Duke, who’s lost a lot of blood and is getting woozy and passouty. Across from them, Tina and Elvis are clinging to each other like scared children, which is exactly what they feel like at this moment. Fear of the dark is an elemental part of the human psyche, a lingering mental resonance from the days when we crowded around a tiny fire in a cave and prayed that whatever was lurking around at the mouth of our home would move on and leave us alone. Most people banish it from conscious thought during childhood – but Tina and Elvis have learned that it’s never really gone for good, it just lays low and waits for a few bloodthirsty undead horrors to rear its head again.
Lucien is nodding to himself like he’s giving an internal pep talk “We’ll just lay low here a while, just get our strength back and then . . .” He puts a hand to his stomach. “[untranslatable Canadian gibberish] I’m hungry.”
Duke’s stomach grows loudly “Don’t remind me Lucien, the smell of ice cream coming off you has been driving me nuts.”
Tins snorts “You’re the one dressed like a burrito, pal. I’ve been tempted to knock a zombie down and take a bite out of you a couple of times myself.” For a long moment no one says anything. “Do you think this is happening all over the place? I mean what if this isn’t just a Sueno Beach problem? What if this is going on everywhere, all over the world? We might be the only people left on earth.”
Elvis looks at his watch “It’s only been a couple hours. Even if this is happening all over the world, we can’t be the only people left alive yet. What about military bases and stuff? And people who are out on the sea in boats, they’d be okay.”
Duke shakes his head “They’d be fine until they got back to land. Poor sailors, they jump onto the dock expecting to find hookers and booze and instead all they get is some dead guy chewing on their liver. I bet they’ll never see that one coming. And that international space station, you come back home after months or years in space and instead of a parade, your dead grandma tries to eat you. That’s got to suck. My question is this, we’ve seen a lot of dead people tonight, a lot, and almost all of them were half-eaten. What’s that about?”
Lucien glances at the fifty percent of a dead body right by them “I guess the zombies like to eat half now and save half for later. Maybe they’re on a diet.”
It’s not much of a joke but everyone cracks up laughing nevertheless. You have to find your humor where you can when the zombies come right? What do they call that? Whistling past the graveyard? Something like that. They keep chortling until Ela steps around the corner scaring the hell out of them.
“Shut up all of you, we’re trying to hide here, hiding means being quiet. I checked the whole place out, there’s nary hide nor hair of a zombie. I told you idiots that this would be the best place to come, zombies hate water, that is a fact.” She waves her axe around for emphasis. “Do any of you still think I shouldn’t be the leader? Huh, anyone?” She speaks with smug satisfaction. “I thought not.”
Tina looks up at her from her seat on the floor “If we’re the last people on earth and we need to repopulate, which one would you do it with? Lucien, or Elvis, or Duke?”
Ela all but spits on the floor “If we had to repopulate the earth and this sorry lot was my only pool to choose from, I’d drive this axe into my skull and spare myself the trouble. Now come on, let’s get in there where it’s safer and plan our next move.”
Ela leads the way into Underwater Paradise proper, which is empty of both the dead and the living alike. Not too many people frequent an aquarium in the dead hours of the night, except Troy McClure and he’s both dead and fictional. As they follow along behind their fearless leader, Lucien and Duke lean on each other and concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other, or crutch rather than foot as the case may be. Elvis and Tina on the other hand seem very interested in the massive tanks that surround them on all sides, you know, it being an aquarium and all. They finally speak up as they reach the center of the aquarium and take seats on benches by informative and brightly lit-up displays.
Elvis looks around “There aren’t any fish in these tanks.”
Tina taps on the glass like an annoying child, in flagrant violation of the “please do not tap on the tanks” sign “Where did the fish all go?”
Ela throws another clown-scowl at them “Who the hell cares? They were probably smart enough to get out of town. There’s no zombies here, be grateful for that and keep your mouths shut. Creepy? We’ve been running through streets covered with blood and brains and innards, pursued by the hungry dead and an empty fish tank freaks you out?”
Duke pipes up “It is kind of spooky.”
Ela turns her withering gaze on him “Nobody asked you, Duke. Here’s our next move, we’re going to wait here and rest for a while and then we’re going out back. They’ve got them tanks back there where they keep injured marine life until it’s rehabilitated and can be released back into the wild. Those pens connect to the ocean and they’ve got a little dock out there with a couple of boats. We’ll get on a boat and drive out a mile or so away from shore, surrounded by the safety of water on all sides.”
Elvis looks down at the dark hallway nervously “And then what? We just wait and see what happens?”
Ela scowls at him, which she’s been doing so much her face is going to freeze that way according to my grandma “Do you have a better idea? We’ll be safe out there and right now that’s our priority. Anything else we can deal with as it comes.”
Duke laughs sarcastically “Great plan, we escape the zombies just to starve to death or die of dehydration out on the high seas. I say before we go out on this three-hour tour we get all the food and water we can, and gasoline too. We might have to drive up the coast or to Cuba.”
Ela waves her axe as she talks again “By all means, be my guest, go out there and pop in at the supermarket for some munchies, hit the gas station, get your car detailed, and while you’re at it make sure to call home and tell momma you’re dead! Hello, mom, it’s me Duke, a zombie killed me because I wouldn’t listen to Ela! This isn’t a shopping spree buddy, it’s a fucking life or death struggle to survive.”
Lucien cuts them off as they start to scream at each other “Wait just a minute now, let’s talk about this rationally and reasonably and Canadianly, okay? No one needs to go anywhere, we’ve got plenty of water right here. And the sea is full of fish to eat.”
Ela sneers at the very notion “We’re going and that’s that.”
Tina gets to her feet “You know, just because you think you’re our leader that doesn’t make you the leader. You don’t get to decide for everyone!”
Ela crowds up on her “You’re right, the fact that I’m going to save your sorry ass doesn’t make me the leader. But you know what does make me the leader? Because I’m Ela and you’re some washed up scabby old bitch.”
I’m placing the Ela-pocalypse story on hold for October so I can present a special Ela Halloween story. This idea tested very poorly with focus groups. Please note that his takes place in 2002 before zombies were gauche. That’s how writing works right, your work is judged by the standards of the era it’s set in?
Whenever post-apocalyptic Ela meets her demise, I’m hoping for an Infinite Earths-style crossover where the characters from all of these universes have to team up to defeat an ultimate evil. Or at least get up to time-travel shenanigans like becoming their own grandparents.
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League of Elas assemble!