Boredom, by Bryan Nickelberry
Shit, unlife is boring. How in the hell long have I been staring at this wall? I know I’ve been sitting here, carefully writing this out for a while now; but every now and then, I just zone out for a few minutes… or hours… or days. I’m not really sure which. Time just doesn’t mean much when you’re dead, and there hasn’t been anything in particular to do ever since we got the last brain, and ate it.
Something most living people haven’t caught onto yet, is the fact that while we zombies don’t see, hear, taste, smell, or feel as well as we did before death; the virus gives us something of a sixth sense for brains, to compensate. We know when there are brains to be had, and what general direction they can be found in. That’s why we keep on showing up no matter how many of us have been killed. Why the brain? I don’t know. But while guts taste good; brains are the only part that taste great. We’ll walk across ocean floors, jump off cliffs, and shamble for days on end to get some brains. But we were too good. We finally got the last one.
The other thing the living don’t realize is how much of their lives are taken up with the process of living. You need to eat, sleep, use the bathroom, keep your minds occupied, maintain your bodies… But we don’t. The only thing we ever had to do was hunt down more brains. With no more brains to hunt, we haven’t had much to do.
We shambled around for a while. We bumped into each other, and wandered everywhere we could think of; or wherever our feet eventually lead us. But it was no good. No human brains. Nothing anywhere. So now we’re bored. And since there’s no one else around, nor anything else to do, some of us have started doing stuff like we used to. I mean, we’ve still got all this stuff left over from civilization. No one else is using it. And there are more than enough of us. So now we change clothes, and there’s no one around telling us to hurry up. We pass money around, but we don’t use pockets very much anymore; it’s easier just to hold it. We sew pieces that have come off, back on; and we’ve figured out how to use duct tape again.
Driving kind of sucks since we don’t have the reaction time anymore; but when we hit a wall, or a few pedestrians; or go off a cliff, no one minds. We grab the zombies who don’t have functional legs, and we drag them with us, or put them on something with wheels. One guy found a particularly long runway, and tried to fly a plane again, but if I heard right, while the take off went well, the landing was a pretty spectacular failure.
We’ve gotten some tv and radio stations back on the air. The shows kind of suck, but music from before we took over is still pretty good. Oddly or sadly enough the dancing after the fall of humanity looks suspiciously similar to the dancing that was popular right before the fall. Those of us who feel so inclined have re-mastered the Bernie, the water sprinkler, the humpty-hump, the freak, and the mosh-pit. Live concerts tend to suck worse than TV shows though; unless it’s something electronic that’s already programmed. Oddly enough, books have gotten popular again, for those of us with the eyes and the patience to read them.
Electric scooters, golf carts, and powered wheel chairs have gotten pretty popular, and I see a bright future for them for as long as we’re here. Sometimes we even have street races. We’ve got electricity turned back on, and those of us with enough brains to do so have programmed robot arms to build new fridges. No freezers though. We figured that out pretty quick. One lady is even working on a fridge suit… I think. I want to say that I heard that a while ago, but I’m not sure anymore. Portable refrigeration and heating technology have both been in demand for a while now so we can continue to unlive our collective unlifestyles.
On the domestic side of things we’ve begun mowing lawns again. Painting up houses, pulling down the bars and boards on the windows, fixing the holes in the roofs, and putting doors back on their hinges. This causes a lot of accidents, from the inevitable zombie dropping through the roof, to run-away lawn mowers; but again, nobody minds. Marriages are happening again, and there are all kinds of families in all kinds of housing. The neighborhood’s actually looking livable again; and the newspaper even comes by every couple of weeks.
You may think it would be lonely, but it isn’t. For some reason the only brains we hungered after were the human ones, so animals are doing pretty well. You can have any kind of pet you want, if you can find one, trap it, and get it home. In fact it said a couple of papers ago that our new president was thinking we might have to do something about certain animal populations running out of control. Bob from a few doors down said that he tried taking up hunting again, but after he squeezed the trigger, he just wound up down one arm, and impaled on a tree branch; so he doesn’t think hunting will be going anywhere. Or at least I’m pretty sure that’s what he meant when he gestured to his taped-on arm, the hole in his chest, and the paper article.
Good news is that the space program works again; and it’s making more progress than ever before. With a couple of years to read books, and a few NASA heads still left laying around, we got things up and running again. We put some former-humans on both the moon and mars. A rocket leaves for one or the other every few years or something, so anyone who wants to go can. We eventually figured out that we need heated space suits to shamble among the stars; and with them… I think I heard there were a few of us heading for the asteroid belt, with some going to even farther planets. Given time some of us will get to see the sand or rocks of Pluto with what’s left of their own eyes. There was some kind of meeting a while ago asking if we should look for alien brains actively; but no one really cared, so we scrapped that.
Other good news: We finally put an end to war and religious differences. There were still a couple of violent assholes, but after more years than any of us bothered to count of pure violence, most of us are kind of tired. And the majority of the few who still want to fight about something usually kill themselves off for good doing things like trying to make explosives, or sharpen a knife on a belt sander. The few who survive those kinds of mishaps generally stumble back out, suitably screwed up, and willing to rejoin polite society. The last handful of holdouts who insist on overcoming the apathy and decay to become problems, give the zombie cops something to do.
All in all I sometimes think that maybe things aren’t so bad now. Maybe death is what it took to make all the other crap in life seem stupid enough to ignore. We’ve still got guys playing with the stock market like it matters, we’ve still got lawyers, and insurance people; but we all know that none of it really matters anymore. On the other hand we have eco freaks cleaning rivers and oceans a rock or a handful of sand at a time; because now they have the time and the stamina to do so. We have people fixing broken oil rigs, pulling up nuclear garbage for us to shoot into the sun, or deep space… we haven’t decided which yet. We never bothered to start counting how many zombies climbed Mount Everest, and turned off their heaters so they could freeze up there and become part of the mountain. But we have explored the Marianas trench, found Atlantis, explored Antarctica, and gone as deep into volcanoes as we can before we combust.
One day I had an epiphany while I scanned books into the computer systems at the library: There will be something after us. I don’t know whether humans released the virus, or nature did; but it didn’t end all life on this world. Maybe the remains of humanity will eventually leave Earth for good. Maybe we’ll just break down physically until there’s nothing left. But whatever happens or doesn’t happen to us, life on Earth will go on. Something else will evolve after us. Maybe it will take millions of years. It will probably take millions of years. But when it happens I want whoever comes next to know what came before. I want them to know we were here. I want them to know that humans existed. And that we meant something.
When we killed off the last living human, we left the world to you; whoever you may be. We also left a lot of frozen human sperm and eggs we found in fertility clinics, buried in Antarctica and the Marianas trench. That way if you ever want to bring us back and meet us for yourselves; you can. We leave it up to you. Just know that once you gain the ability to decipher these words, then this is your official welcome to the world that’s been left for you.
“And that’s where the book ends.” The squid says, releasing the knobs to let the pneumatic arms lower. She looks around at her companions: A coconut crab, a dolphin, a wolf, and a culture of plankton in a self-contained suit.
“This might finally confirm my theory!” The wolf shouts. “This whole expedition was worth it! I’ve been theorizing for years that something dramatic must’ve changed our entire world! The artifacts we’ve found, the scraps of things that we couldn’t explain… Some super-virus invaded their world, and if it modified us after it was through with them; then that could explain everything!”
“And yet,” the coconut crab says, “as an anthropologist I have to advise you all, that this represents a major amount of social upheaval if we bring this find to light. Until now we’ve just been working with theories. Now we may have actual facts. So we should tread carefully from here on out with regards to what we say and do; and how we say and do those things.”
“But think about it!” the wolf squeals, “I’ve always wondered, why after all these years of divergent evolution, we suddenly: as the entire varied species, of a vast planet; seem to have come to the same convergent evolutionary conclusion! I mean, we all reached sentience at roughly the same time! Sure, tentacled creatures haven’t developed legs like dolphins and whales, or lungs like insectoids, or thumbs like most terrestrial mammals; but the fact that you’ve built these hydraulic suits says something.
And why have insectoids gotten so big over the last few thousand years? Why have any of us; much less most of us, developed the vocal apparatuses to talk? Why are we using tools, when before it was unnecessary? What if the agency who created the super-virus the creature spoke of wanted this to happen? Wanted us to happen!?! The creature who left the message for us said that he, or she, or it; didn’t know where the virus came from, or why. But what if someone else did know the origin of the virus? And even if no one knew that they were clearing the way for us; if the virus was released intentionally, then that would still make our genesis an intentional event! Either way, our intelligence was probably designed. Built into us from or with the genetic code of these creatures who came before us. This could answer everything! Or at least be the cornerstone and foundation of the answers to everything.”
“I believe,” the plankton culture says, “that the correct thing to do is to sleep on this until the morning. Right now we are all high on the success of our find, and its proper translation. Consider though, that we may have mistranslated it; specifically because we all know how much damage a simple mistranslation can do. So let’s have clear, well rested heads, and properly considered data before we begin changing the world. In the morning we’ll double check everything, and then, if we conclude that the original translations were correct; we can begin making decisions. What do you think Shawna?” the culture asks turning to the dolphin.
“I think it’s been a long day of diving, and I’m asleep on my feet already. I’m way too tired to be properly excited one way or another.” The dolphin says. “Bob is literally nothing but brain cells. I say we trust the brain. Goodnight people.” The dolphin says heading to her bunk.
“It seems we’re decided then.” The hermit crab says. “We shall retire for the evening, and reconvene in the morning.” The crab bows, “I shall see you all again on the morrow.” And then scuttles off to his bunk.
“It’s not that we’re not excited Allison,” the plankton says turning to the wolf. “It’s just that we want to be sure of everything before we begin changing the world; so that we change it properly. Sleep well.” He says turning, and floating down toward the men’s dorm.
Allison gives a sigh, and looks back at her find, then up at the squid which hasn’t moved. “And I suppose you’re heading off to bed as well Patricia?”
“I’m not sure I’ll be getting any sleep tonight.” The speaker on the front of the suit crackles while the squid within types furiously. “There is much here to consider. But the good news is that the surface world and its inhabitants aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. I will think hard tonight. Goodnight Allison.” The squid says, bowing slightly within her suit, and settling down behind the device.
The glowing monitor in the darkness beckons to Allison like a moth to a flame, causing her tail and ears to perk back up a bit. But there’s nothing to do for the moment; especially with Patricia keeping watch over the find all night. ‘This isn’t anywhere near over yet; and it is not up for discussion.’ Allison finds herself thinking as she heads off to her bunk. ‘I’m going to bring the truth to the world. And anyone trying to stop me from doing so will need all the forces this world possesses on their side to survive my fury.’
Bryan Nickelberry was born with scales and webbed feet like any lifelong resident of the greater Seattle Metropolitan area. He now lives about half an hour from any kind of real civilization, and he spends his time away from work hunting for well-written stories in any format. Ask his friends, family and associates about him, and the stories will probably be long, but gracious.
Posted on December 24, 2013, in Issue 11: The Day Zombies Ruled the Earth and tagged e-zine, genre blender, horror, monsters, science fiction, short stories, The Were-Traveler, zombies. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.