Zombie Despair, by Tim Tobin
My name is Daniel Moore and I am living my last days on earth. There is no way to tell if I am the last human alive but at the very least I am among the last. The plague first struck during my teenage years. Now, twenty years later, I am a tired, defeated old man.
Many of the initial survivors predicted that mankind could not survive the onslaught. Far many more, though, knew that Man survived other plaques, averted nuclear annihilation, and by sheer perseverance would survive this disaster as well.
They were wrong.
Honestly, I cannot quite explain my compulsion to write this short history of the last twenty years. Within days or weeks there will be no one to read it, ever. But intelligent life on Earth evolved before; why not again?
But that process took billions of years. This history is written with paper and pen. Perhaps my history will exist for a few hundred years, maybe more and maybe less. Who knows, I chuckle to myself, maybe a space alien will find it!
So in the end, I suppose I am writing this just for me.
Chapter Last: The Final Horror
By the twentieth year mankind settled into a sort of equilibrium. Survivors dotted the planet and the occasional stragglers brought stories of both valor and defeat.
My small colony took refuge on an abandoned aircraft carrier that expended its nuclear fuel. We made dozens, perhaps hundreds, of deadly forays to the mainland and brought back tons of top soil and seeds. Much of the flight deck of the carrier became our garden. We grew enough to feed ourselves but just barely. But there were almost no animals anywhere. While fish provided protein when they were plentiful, many of us were chronically anemic.
And we had no capacity to absorb any of the stragglers.
Fights broke out over our small crop. Perhaps, fortunately, only a few still hoarded ammunition for their guns. Cave men probably existed like this, in a constant state of war.
On the day of the final horror I stood guard on the bridge. Three rifle bullets remained in my pocket. One of them belonged to me in case we were ever overrun. My binoculars swept the ocean on the shore-side of the aircraft carrier. A swirling wake in the distance caught my attention.
“Stragglers,” I sighed. “Or worse, marauders. Another fight coming.”
Nothing appeared sinister from a distance. A decrepit speedboat led a flotilla of small vessels across the flat ocean. But when I recognized the operators I screamed out load. And I continued to scream until every one of our colonists gathered on the flight deck.
The sight of a zombie driving the boat ended all hope for mankind.
Twenty more boats also driven by zombies followed. When they reached the side of the giant ship, they actually looked up at us with blazing yellow eyes. They snarled and lunged at the ladders. But the one in the lead just sped away. The rest stared at us for along time, their hunger evident.
The zombies had evolved.
In twenty years the clumsy instinctual monsters changed into creatures with the skill and dexterity to drive a boat and to attack our floating home.
The onslaught by thousands of the skilled undead defeated our crew and the monsters overran the carrier. We fought them with a few bullets and knifes and stakes and spears. My friends and I never stood a chance.
This history is being finished from a locked cell in the brig. My old friends are snarling and growling at the bars waiting to devour me.
The door will not hold much longer.
To not have answers is the most frustrating aspect of the end. In fact, more questions have occurred to me as history draws to a conclusion.
What will happen to the undead once their food supply is exhausted? Will they slowly starve or exist eternally as mindless wanderers across the entire earth? Will Zombie evolution continue and will the things regain actual intelligence?
There are only a few clues. We found a zombie in the brig on our uninhabited ship. Alone for years, the undead thing prowled its cell and desperately attacked the human who discovered it.
There is a single shell in the chamber of my rifle. I am reminded of the old riddle. If a tree falls in a forest and there is no one to hear it, did the falling tree make a sound? No one will hear my shot, not even me.
So human history ends with my words. I wish I had something philosophical to say for the ages. But all I have are questions with no answers. My honest opinion is that Man will flourish again. And if he is to flourish, he will have to find the answers.
August 21, 2025
Mike Warren stared at the half-finished limerick on his sheet of paper:
“There was a zombie named Jewell
Who the ghoul met in a duel”
Mike decided the last line would be something about “zombies rule” but the middle two lines defeated him. When his English teacher assigned the limerick for homework, Mike had no idea it would be so difficult. He decided his future did not lay in poetry.
As a matter of fact his future might not lay anywhere. His father told the family that they would be living in a cave by candlelight within a year or two.
Matt turned around at the sound of the front door opening. Instead of his mother one of the undead walked towards him. Matt committed the cardinal sin of carelessness. His pistol lay in his backpack hanging from a dining room chair.
Matt leaped towards the chair and just barely beat the zombie. He grabbed the backpack and rolled under the table. The creature growled and reached for him.
“Jesus,” Matt said aloud. “If that thing even scratches me …..”
He kicked the arm away with his foot and struggled to get the gun free. Finally he found salvation in his hand but the thing’s head remained out of sight. And shooting the arm would do no good. His choices were to continue to fight off the arm or risk dashing out from under the table.
The thing thrust his arm deep under the table and grabbed Matt’s ankle. Matt pulled and pulled but the creature held him with a death grip.
He cocked his gun, took a deep breath and relaxed. The thing slid Matt’s body out from under the table. As soon as the zombie saw a section of Matt’s leg, the thing bite at it. At the last possible instant Matt fired.
The creature fell face first on Matt and joined the real dead. Repulsed by the dead thing Matt struggled to his feet. Without warning something grabbed from behind. Another zombie somehow entered the house.
Matt struggled against the thing wondering how it snuck up on him. The monster whirled around coming face to face with Matt. The thing bit Matt on the neck drawing blood and condemning Matt to an undead hell.
The creature hoisted Matt up and impaled his back on a coat hook. Matt squealed in agony with all hope gone.
The thing sat down at Matt’s desk and stared at the unfinished limerick. He picked up the pencil with clumsy fingers encrusted with blood and flesh.
The thing completed the limerick,
“There was a zombie named Jewell
Who the ghoul met in a duel
Th unded wold corode
An thir brans woud explde
When th zmbies did rle”
The zombie walked over to a screaming Matt and ripped off his left arm and sauntered down the road munching on his noon day snack.
Linda and Karl Buckley made love unenthusiastically in front of their cave and then watched the sun slowly dip in the western sky. A few hundred yards below they saw hundreds, perhaps thousands, of zombies making their way up the mountain side. They walked, not lurched, making slow progress on the steep terrain.
Karl counted their ammunition. Four rounds remained for the pistol and five for the shotgun. But the couple, chronically hungry, filthy and exhausted from exertion in the thin mountain air, decided that killing a few more of the creatures was of no value.
Linda took his hand and raised the gun to her forehead. Their eyes met and Linda nodded. The two shots came in rapid succession.
Mrs. Rita Carlyle, an 86 year old widow, rarely drove. But this night she tucked her duffle bag on the seat next to her and drove very carefully. No other cars were on the road, of course, but she maneuvered through rusting hulks of vehicles that were everywhere. She turned into the bank parking lot and parked in front of the building. She steadfastly refused to use a handicapped spot. A flickering light inside the bank surprised her and invited her inside..
Inside a teller named Joe Madison sat behind a desk with two candles and a lantern cutting through the gloom. A pistol lay on the desk in front of him. He picked up his gun when he heard the door open and then laid it down again when he recognized Mrs. Carlyle as human.
She sat at the desk and money, a lot of money, spilled from her duffle.
“I’d like to open an account,” she said.
“Certainly. May I see your driver’s license?” replied Joe.
Mr. Tobin holds a degree in mathematics from LaSalle University and is retired from L-3 Communications. Zombie Despair marks his fourth appearance in The Were-Traveler. His work also appears in River Poets Journal, Static Movement, Cruentus Libri Press, The Speculative Edge, Rainstorm Press, Twisted Dreams, The Rusty Nail, In Parentheses, and the Whortleberry Press as well as various websites and ezines. He is a member of the South Jersey Writer’s Group. Follow him on Twitter @TimTobin43.