Zombie Gonzo, by Reed Beebe
Given the choice, I’d prefer the company of zombies to hippie protesters. Zombies smell better and there’s no law against shootin’ ‘em. – Governor George C. Wallace
The zombie epidemic will not hinder our efforts in Vietnam. America will prevail at home and abroad. – President Lyndon Johnson
Zombies are the ultimate Commies. – Governor Ronald Reagan
“Hunter Stockton Thompson.” The fat cop reads my name aloud like a mad mother about to smack her child.
“You the fellah that wrote that book on the Hell’s Angels?” he asks me as he inspects my driver’s license, holding it at arms length, his expression the pained look of a man in need of a good bowel movement. He’s looking at my ’67 Chevy Impala, the Great Red Beast, and I bet he wants to check the car for marijuana, but if he does the pig is going to be disappointed, because I smoked the last of my grass somewhere north of Shreveport.
“The one and only, sir,” I say with a sarcastic flourish.
“What brings you to Louisiana, Mr. Thompson? We don’t have no Hell’s Angels around here.”
“I want to see some of that southern hospitality I’ve heard so much about. I’m on vacation.” I don’t tell him that I’m on my way to New Orleans to check out the hippie scene down there for a piece for Rolling Stone. With the West Coast under marshal law, Haight-Ashbury has lost its buzz, and word is that the Big Easy is the new place for free love and psychedelic drugs.
The cop lets me go with a warning about my speed – “You ain’t ridin’ with the Hell’s Angels no more, Mr. Thompson” – and tells me about the wildlife.
“We got it good in these parts compared to a lot of other places, but we still got zombies walking around the hills here. Be careful. And keep your car doors locked.”
I see the fat cop grinning in my rearview mirror as I drive away. I light up a cigarette and dig out the Colt handgun that I hid under the seat. Louisiana’s Highway 1 stretches before me like a long asphalt snake and I point the Great Red Beast south and hit the accelerator, Nawlins or Bust.
My windows are rolled down and Conway Twitty is playing on the radio. It’s a hot August day and I’m in the middle of enemy territory, not Vietnam but the crazy world of Old Dixie. George Wallace’s political signs are everywhere along the highway, and it’s a sure bet he’ll carry this state, along with the rest of the Deep South in this year’s Presidential election. Was the Summer of Love just a year ago? And now Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King are dead, most of America is under martial law, and Wallace looks like a real contender.
The old lady sitting in the rocking chair in front of the gas station is holding a double barrel shot gun in her lap while she fans herself. Pretty much everybody in these parts is packing a gun. It explains why this part of the country isn’t as infested with zombies as the rest of the nation. America, take note – the Second Amendment saved the South.
A skinny teenage redneck comes out to pump gas into the Great Red Beast. I walk into the station and buy a Coke to cool off. Stuffed zombie heads are mounted on the wall, and for a dime you can buy a genuine zombie tooth necklace.
“I think Wallace has the right idea,” I hear the bearded man behind the counter tell his customer. “Just round up the damn things and drop them on Hanoi.”
His rotund customer agrees and adds a fresh insight. “Yep, he should do the same thing with the hippies and the coloreds.”
I hate to interrupt heady political conversation, but I need to empty my bladder so I ask about the restrooms. The bearded man looks at me with suspicion. I’m sure his cognitive gears are turning, trying to determine whether the foreign invader that stands before him is worth the cost of a bullet, but as I don’t look like a zombie, a hippie or a colored he relents and points me outside in the direction of a nearby outhouse.
As I finish my business in the outhouse, I ponder the irony of a culture able to hold back a zombie epidemic but unable to install indoor plumbing. Last year’s zombie outbreak shut down most of America, with the Army coming in to keep things running, but Old Dixie just broke out the guns and held its own. The rest of America may be going through a new Dark Age, but Old Dixie never left the old one, so praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.
Walking away from the outhouse I expect to smell the fragrant north Louisiana pine, but the outhouse smell lingers longer than it should, and that’s when I notice the smell isn’t coming from the outhouse.
My heart kicks up the beat like a drummer on speed when I see the zombie. Judging from his movements and the fresh blood stains on his shirt, the black teenage boy is a fresh one. The older zombies are pretty slow, but the fresh ones can sprint. The zombie teenager might be able to catch me if I start running but I don’t have a choice. The Colt and the Great Red Beast are about 70 feet away, and I’m back here alone.
The zombie starts running for me. His eyes are blood red and his teeth are stained with the blood of his last victim. I turn and run towards my car as fast as I can, screaming like a maniac the whole time. I’m praying to God and promising Him that if he gets me out of this jam I’ll always bring a gun with me when I go to the toilet.
I fly past the store and see the Great Red Beast. The teenage redneck has finished pumping gas and is wiping the windshield. He sees me and the zombie coming towards him and he starts running. I don’t dare look back but I know the zombie is right behind me. This is going to be a photo finish.
I reach the car and pull the lever on the car door. I don’t even make it inside the car when I hear the shotgun go off. I turn and see the zombie on its knees, with the old lady out of her rocking chair, holding the double barrel to her shoulder. She moves in closer, points the shotgun at the zombies head, and with a trigger squeeze Granny puts the monster out of its misery and saves my life.
The bearded man and his customer come running out of the gas station.
“Momma, you got you another one,” says the bearded man.
“It’s a zombie and a colored,” says the customer. “Good shootin’.”
The bearded man asks me if I’m all right. I regain my composure and light a cigarette. I tell him I’m fine. He offers to give me the zombie’s teeth if I want them as a souvenir. I pass on the offer, and thank the old lady for saving my life.
“These are the end days,” she responds with a crazed look in her eyes. “God is coming to judge us. The Devil is walking the Earth, and only the righteous will be saved.”
I can’t disagree, so I politely nod and excuse myself to pay for the gas. As I drive off, I think about Granny’s words. Everybody has their theory about what caused the zombie epidemic. Mutant virus. Communist plot. Wrath of God. The last one is just a valid as any of the others, because nobody knows the answer. It’s heavy stuff to think about when you’re driving alone on a long southern highway towards the New Sodom, and I wish I had some grass to smoke.
After years of hunting monsters and fighting ninjas, globetrotting adventurer Reed Beebe has retired to a quiet Kansas City, Missouri neighborhood to write fiction and poetry. This is his first published work. He is still trying to figure out Twitter, but if you’re patient and forgiving, you can follow him at http://twitter.com/ReedBeebe.