Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Thursday, July 7, 2016
Angelina had arranged for them to take dance lessons which he thought was bizarre but bizarre was now the new normal in his life. When he arrived at the tango classroom on the other side of the building, having navigated a labyrinth of hallways and closets, he felt like a cow that had been milked too soon. He suspected Angelina was not romantically interested in him and was just using him to open an account at the local sperm bank. He recounted the times they had had sex in the thirty minutes it took them to traverse the building’s corridors. Once in the lab, another in the janitor’s closet, just outside the doorway to the lab, again, at the other end of the hall, and a final time in the men’s lavatory at the top of the stairwell.
At twenty-two years of age, he had experienced similar bouts of sexual activity but never in such rapid succession. It was the serum, he concluded, he could still feel its heat in his veins, making him feel more alive, extremely virile and hungry.
He guessed Angelina’s age to be about thirty and found her statement that she was sixty-four proof that she was pathological liar among other things. He always felt like she was observing him the way a scientist watches a rat go through a maze. She could turn on the sex appeal when she wanted, as he just found out…for the fourth time.
His head was reeling and he was no longer certain of his sanity. In the past 72 hours he had watched a woman torn to shreds by zombies, taken three bullets to the chest courtesy of the Philadelphia Police Department, was brought back from the dead and turned into a human sex machine. He wondered what was going to happen next?
Dance class, he mused, how dangerous could that be?
The guest instructor’s name was Drusilla Arcula. She was from Argentina. She had thick blond hair that flowed halfway down her back and was constantly pulling on it, shaping it into a ponytail and letting it go. Her accent was thick but she took time to enunciate each word clearly. Her voice was deep and powerful, even when she was speaking softly; it was seductive.
He noticed she was very shapely and found himself lost in thoughts of lust as she guided the class into performing molinete, the very heart of tango. Each student moved around a private, imaginary rectangle, pivoting, stepping sideways, all to the beat of the music and under the instructor’s constant attention. When they began moving to half-beats and quarter-beats, Zach noticed some of the pupils struggling to keep up.
An hour into the lesson, Drusilla had the students pair off into couples and practice today’s movement: the volcada. If one of the partners had trouble, usually the leader, she would interrupt and assume the appropriate role, man or woman’s, so the other could experience the perfect response.
Zach couldn’t keep his mind from wandering into the triple X theater when she paired up with one of the ladies. Once, when she was holding a lithe young woman with curly-brown hair in close embrace, she caught him looking. She locked onto his eyes with hers. It seemed to him as if the whole room fell silent.
She whispered to him, eyeing him intensely with her dark brown eyes, “You like this?” Her eyes darted to the girl and back to him.
He was surprised by the question and glanced around the room to see if anyone was paying attention to what she said but they were oblivious to the question.
“Yes?” she queried. It was such a simple word, yet she loaded it with sensuality.
He felt himself being drawn to her like the moon's pull on the tides. His heart ached for her and the blood rushed from his head to parts south.
“No?” she asked, almost playfully, the other woman’s head buried in her chest as she led the movement.
Zach tried to respond, he even opened his mouth but no words rolled out, not even a guttural chirp. His arousal was beginning to become noticeable.
With a deep, sinister laugh, the instructor said, as she looked downwards, “Yeeeesssss, you do.” Her voice rumbled like a gentle thunder from heat lightning in summer.
He had to get out of there. Angelina spied the bulge in his pants and smiled at him, knowingly. In a moment he was in the hallway, sitting on a bench.
He sat there trying to think of something to calm himself down. He was distraught. He struggled not to think of the Drusilla’s thick blond hair, the sound of her voice, the compelling look in her eyes. Five minutes passed and he still had not regained his composure.
The door opened. He was not surprised to see it was her. He stared at her and could not turn away until her eyes darted to a doorway to his left, just past a wall-mounted water fountain. The sign on it read, “JANITOR.” He followed her eyes and looked to the sign, then back to her. She smiled broadly.
Grabbing his hand she led him into the closet, like a little boy going to the zoo. Inside there were no cleaning supplies, instead it was outfitted like someone’s secret hiding place. It was furnished with a reclining chair, a television and a small refrigerator. Drusilla sat in the chair and pulled him into her between her legs.
He moved instinctively, propelled by the serum mixing with his blood supply. Her breasts popped out of her shirt. Soon he was inside her. He felt her full lips on his neck, her warm, moist tongue pressed against his throat. He was enthralled and she consumed him. He experienced a sharp pinch and felt her fangs sliding into the meat of his neck. He could feel the blood being drained from him, yet he did not resist: he wanted her to have it.
Ms. Arcula paused for a breath of air and said, “My dear boy, I should probably restrain my appetite but you are so, so…..tasty.” The last word rolled off her lips with glee. “I have never tasted blood so….spicy! I’m so sorry, but I am going to need more…a lot more!”
With those words, she bared her fangs and sunk them into Zach’s juggler. His body spasmed as he felt her drink him in, her tongue, hot and wet, pressed firmly against his skin. Once more he was falling into unconsciousness. What little light there was in the room, began to fade.
Suddenly, everything was illuminated. The door was open and there stood Angelina.
“Zach!” she cried, sounding disappointed. “she’s a vampire!”
Drusilla removed her fangs from her victim, dripping blood, and hissed at the woman standing in the doorway. Cat-like, she lunged. Angelina, with the skill of a kung-fu master, deflected her, rolling onto her back and planting her foot firmly into the instructor’s chest. When she hit the ground with her back, she used her momentum to toss the vampire across the hallway and into wall on the other side of the hallway.
The blond-haired woman hit with a loud thud and the vibration shook the whole building. She collapsed in a heap, her hair covering her face. Angelina guarded the entrance to the closet with her body. She stood there for a moment before turning and going to the young man’s aid.
“Zach,” Angelina said. She grabbed his arm, preventing him from falling over. She wiped the blood away from his neck to reveal two small holes, “my poor, dear lab rat. You shouldn’t mess with vampires. You can get AIDS! They really are dirty people, honestly….” Her voice trailed off as she led him out of the enclosure.
The classroom door opened and other students, alarmed by the loud bang of Ms. Arcula’s body slamming into the wall, poured into the narrow hallway. Drusilla looked at them and then to Angelina, blood still dripping from her lips and her chin. Her eyes flashed with anger, then confusion. She fled down the hall and into the stairwell.
Angelina met the confused stares of her fellow dancers and said, “Ahhya guess she weren’t woman enough to take my man!” She cocked her head side-to-side, lifted Zach and led him away. Reaching into her tiny purse, she produced a chocolate bar and handed it to him.
In the lab, he sat on the edge of the cot while Dr. Jones retrieved a jar of Boolean Glue. In silence, she applied the green gooey substance to the wounds on his neck. The loss of blood made him feel light-headed. The pain the glue brought was intense but darkness overcame him quickly.
His sleep was restless. Strange visions of symbols and equations filled his dreams. Masked shamans hovered over him on the cot. He awoke, briefly, to find Angelina sticking a needle full of serum into his arm. His hallucinations turned into scenes of volcanoes. Pools of lava spilled over the rim and ran down hillsides in bright orange streams. Even in his deepest sleep, he could feel his body convulsing with spasms, it was as if every bone in his body wished to detach itself from his muscle.
He awoke with fire burning in his veins. It was too hot on the bed so he lay on the floor. The cool cement felt good on his back. Out of habit, he began to do situps. He was amazed at how easy they were. He looked at his body in awe. He could see the outline of every muscle group and each was perfectly toned. He had never been in this great a shape before.
The professor walked in as he was doing pushups.
“No need for that,” she remarked, “the serum is based on a new type of steroid, hopefully you won’t get brain cancer.”
When he heard that, he stood up and faced her, clad only in his white wool pants. She stared him up and down and smiled with satisfaction. His eyes narrowed as he saw her delight. Anger grew inside him, his posture straightened. His blood boiled, yet he fought to remain calm when he spoke.
“I’m nothing more than a walking, talking science experiment to you, aren’t I?” He said, grabbing her by the arm which she quickly pulled away. “At what point are you going to start removing my body parts and storing them in a jar, like you do my sperm? Do you even enjoy taking it from me?”
“You know,” he continued in his rant, “ever since I’ve met you, my life has been one big catastrophe. You did a good job in scaring me into staying after the police shot me but I’m not going to take any more of your crap. Do you hear me?”
Her expression turned serious. She seemed to be studying his demeanor, his flaring nostrils, his reddened face. She looked to the door and bolted.
In one leap, he cleared the marble tables and caught her. He grabbed both her arms and pinned her against the wall, face first. He leaned his head forward to whisper in her ear and her hair brushed his face. He thought it smelled of apples, or grapes. He felt hungry. He was getting aroused. As he became engorged, his fury grew and he used it to justify what he knew, instinctively, that he must do.
He ravaged her while keeping her trapped against the wall. Her breathing quickened but she did not scream. She’s trying to figure out how to turn this situation into a productive ‘session’, he thought, and grew even more angry. He was determined not to let her have the satisfaction.
With his free arm he savagely ripped off her clothes. His face contorted into a snarl as he ground his teeth to keep his resolve to do what he must do. What he had to do.
He orgasmed inside her and threw her across the room like an empty milk carton. He walked to the door and departed. He went upstairs, to the janitor’s closet, where the vampire had taken his blood and his seed.
Closing the door he sat in the chair, brooding. In the silence of the dark, Zach listened to the vibration of the world outside. He could feel the hum of the steam generator that provided heat and electricity to the entire campus. The sound of traffic on Chestnut Street soaked through the walls to his hidden throne in the alcove.
The absence of light helped him to see beyond the walls. His other senses reached beyond the space of his one-room kingdom, to the interstate beside the Schuylkill River. Water pushed against a low-overhead dam by the Philadelphia Boat Club, he was surprised that he was aware of the water's weight upon the structure. He saw shadows moving in various places in the city’s center, on 15th Street, in alleys, in an abandoned building on Buttonwood Street.
He concentrated on the shadows. They seemed to be people but he knew they were not. They were listening to a sound. As he became more aware of them, he could hear what they were hearing. The noise was familiar to him. It was music. There were violins and it was sad. It was tango music. It was something more than music, it was a message. It was a command.
"Find them," it said.
Find who, he wondered? Who were they searching for? Innately, he knew, part of what made them what they were, was inside him, in the Boolean Glue. In the darkness, the answer came to him: zombies.
He had to find them.
It was nighttime when he went outside into the street, shirtless. The chill winter air felt good on his hot skin. The fire still burned intensely within his veins. He felt better now. He had a sense of purpose. He needed to find them, the zombies. A voice inside him told him he could help them, that they needed him. He knew how to find them, he had his own ‘string’ to guide him, a connection to the dancers from the night before that existed in another dimension he couldn’t put a name to.
Cars honked at the strange half-naked man walking barefoot along Chestnut Avenue, towards center city Philadelphia. He was a sight to see, his skin tinged blue from the frigid temps, his hot breath creating thick clouds of steam in the air, his muscles rippling as he moved like a creature from a comic book artist’s drawing.
He found them in an abandoned storefront on Ludlow Street, near Independence Hall. Tango music was playing. He found it extremely soothing. The fire in his veins became more bearable. It seemed as if he could think more clearly, now that he was with them…he was home.
In the back of the room was a long countertop from an old barroom. At the end was a Victrola, spinning a record. It sounded tinny. The tin sound struck a chord that aroused a passion within him.
Inside, he waded through the throng of zombies, unafraid. They seemed normal, except for the blank expression on their faces. Their skin color was lightly tanned. Most of them had black hair. There were about forty of them. There were more males than females.
Zach jumped up on the bar and sat with one foot on top, his knee bent on which he placed his chin, his muscular arms wrapped around his left leg. Watching the zombies mill about to the music, he noticed one was out of place. He was old, his hair was white and he wore a smile of delight on his face. In his arms was a dark-haired beauty. He couldn’t see her face for it was buried in the old man’s upper chest, in the nook of his neck, between his collarbone and his ear. His right hand was roaming all around her back and her butt.
This man would be lunch soon, Zach thought. He sensed the crowd’s hunger for flesh but did not share it. The time to feed was getting close, the zombies paired up and began to dance. He was so completely in tune with the zombies, he could tell they were all beginning to drool in anticipation of dinner.
He saw the clock on the tower at Independence Hall in the reflection of a window
across the street. It was fifteen minutes before midnight. Then he noticed Angelina in the doorway. He just stared at her, expressionless. In her hands she held a large cup of coffee and a bucket of fried chicken. She was smiling, meekly.
When she came over to him, she said, “Extra strength, quadruple espresso from Starbucks. Cost me a fortune. I’m not sure if you’re developing a taste for flesh so I brought the chicken, just in case.”
He grabbed the coffee and drank it in one gulp. It wasn’t hot but the caffeine quenched his thirst. Opening the bucket, he reached in and pulled out a leg. He devoured it in a few ferocious bites. She leaned against his leg, her back to him, facing the throng.
Zach said, in a soft voice, “You should go. They’re about to feed.”
“I think I’ll be okay with you,” she replied. “I think you have a bond with them now. Normally, one of the men would have offered to dance with me. Something is different now. I can feel it in them, I can feel it when I touch you.”
“I’m sorry,” he confessed. He was glad she was here with him now, the warmth of her body felt good. He felt regret.
“That's okay,” she said, “I know, men are monsters,” she paused for a moment before continuing, “you weren’t a monster when I met you. I’m sorry, too, but you’ll soon see, I had no choice. Time is running out.”
La Cumparsita began to play. Halfway through the song, the victim began to realize something was wrong. The woman in his embrace began to gnaw on the skin of his collarbone. The dancers had him corralled with their bodies. Their flesh turned ash-white. Their skin was torn in places, on their face and hands, but the meat inside their wounds was dark. The man began to scream as the zombies pulled at his clothes and put their teeth to his skin.
Zach explained to Angelina, “I can tell what they’re thinking. They like to hear the scream. It even makes me feel good. I think I can help them.”
The zombies had the old man on ground. He was naked now and they were eating him slowly, not like they did to the young lady Zach knew as Nina days before. They ate the skin on his back and his genitals, rolling him around with their mouths, like a rotisserie chicken having its skin torn off. They ate his nipples and eyelids and his nose. When they tore out his eyes, one of them tossed them out the window.
“Zach,” Angelina asked, “can we go? My stomach’s strong but I can’t take this.”
He replied, “Yeah, I know what I’ve got to do now. Besides, someone will hear the screams, eventually, because they’re gonna eat him slowly.” He hopped off the counter, grabbed the bucket of chicken and said, “C’mon, let’s go.”
As they walked past the ravenous horde, a man reached out and grabbed Angelina’s leg. Zach turned instantly, crouched down and hissed at him, his eyes aglow. The zombie released its grip, reluctantly.
Impressed, Angelina said, “It seems you are at the top of the pecking order.”
“Yeah, seems so,” Zach answered, “they think I’m their king, now. Go figure.”
They walked out the door as the bells on the tower clock began to chime. On the
twelfth ring, the screaming became muted.
“I think they’re eating his lips,” Zach said.
Angelina pushed her head into his shoulder and said, “Zach, please….T-M-I.”
Monday, July 4, 2016
Zachary Cardamone was in the doghouse again. His girlfriend, Nina Swarthmore, had dumped him for a dumpy guy with dark hair and a ponytail that she’d just met at the college salsa club dance. It wasn’t his fault he was popular with the ladies; it was in his blood: he was Argentine and dancing came naturally to him. His body spoke another language and women understood it when he danced with them.
He caught sight of Nina leaving as the back door closed behind her and the stranger. Zach ran after them down Nectarine Street. He didn’t know why he cared. She was out of his league but he liked her all the same. He could see the two racing along the cobblestone alleyways of old Philadelphia. He didn’t like the neighborhood and where they were heading made him nervous.
The pair disappeared into a dimly lit stairway and he followed. Halfway down the stairs, at ground level, he could see through dirty window panes a gathering of people dressed in tattered clothing. Tango music, the melodies he had been breastfed as a descendent of Argentine immigrants, emanated from the space apparently lit only by a few candles. The room was not large and there were about forty couples, all dancing together in two lanes of traffic, each going around the room counter-clockwise.
He could see Nina, already entwined in the embrace of the dance he recognized as the tango. She looked out of place, he thought, with her thick, golden hair and her milky-white skin. All the other dancers were tanned, Spanish-looking. Most of the men were dressed casually, jeans and plaid shirts. The women wore long flimsy skirts with a slit in the side that allowed a leg to slip out and expose a seductive thigh.
There was another woman that appeared to be unlike the rest. She was dressed in a white shirt, unbuttoned to expose her ample bosom, and she wore blue jeans. Her sockless feet were adorned with periwinkle-blue high heels.
He completed his descent into the den and stood in the doorway. The music was interrupted by a strange melody, it lasted only thirty seconds before the tango music
resumed. He couldn’t discern the source of the tunes but he recognized the recordings, they were the same ones his grandparents played on their old record player when he was a child. He remembered the songs were scratchy and tinny, just as they were now. Everyone stopped moving during the interruption but began again, once the melodies resumed.
All continued dancing except the woman in the blue jeans, she broke away from her partner and turned to look Zach in the eye with a seductive stare. He felt compelled to go to her and moved across the floor. He held up his hand as an invitation to dance and she slipped inside his frame, her left arm slung over his shoulder.
He looked for Nina and could see she was deeply immersed in the arms of the dark-haired man; he was holding her too close and she seemed to be enjoying it too much. The man executed a sly maneuver moving his leg between hers which caused her to slip off of it like a silky scarf while still closely bound to him at the chest. Jealousy welled inside of Zach and he slid his arm around his partner’s waist. Her lustrous thick black hair pushed into his right cheek, blocking his vision to the right. He could still see Nina with his left eye.
This woman smelled fragrant, like freshly picked spices, maybe rosemary and patchouli. Her scent reminded him of the woods. Her breasts pressed into his chest and he could feel her breathing. He walked to the rhythm of the music not trying anything fancy. This was Argentine Tango, the dance of his grandparents, it would be insulting to attempt movements beyond his skill level and he was capable of only one thing: walking, but that one thing was enough and he was able to successfully maneuver through the dancers with his partner and not collide with any of the other couples.
These people scared him, especially the man with Nina. He was not sure why he felt this way, he merely intended to get Nina and take her back to the salsa dance. Maybe it was this voluptuous woman in his arms, maybe it was the vacant expressions on the faces of the other couples, or it could be the strange odor he noticed when he moved too close to the others. He tried to place the scent and thought back to his parents’ butcher shop and the stench of rotting meat.
“It’s the cortina,” his partner said, her voice breaking the silence and highlighting the fact that everyone had stopped dancing. He was so immersed in his thoughts, he had forgotten about the music. “It’s the cortina,” she repeated, somewhat miffed. “You do know ‘cortina’, don’t you?”
“No,” he replied.
“What do you know?” She asked and didn’t wait for an answer, “You know nothing! Who are you? What are you doing here? Come!”
She grabbed his arm and led him outside. He felt as if he’d been caught trespassing and offered no resistance. Outside, she sat him down on the steps, near the bottom of the window sill. He could see the throng inside, continuing without them.
“A cortina,” she began, “is that strange melody used to separate tandas. You don’t know tandas, do you?” It was a rhetorical question. “Are you familiar with tango, then?”
Stammering, he answered, “Yes, my grandparents….but I never….Nina.”
She cut him off. “You are not one of them, then. I thought so. The gringa, is she with you?”
“Yes, ahh, no,” he replied, “I guess not.” He glanced inside and could see Nina wrapping her leg around her companion in a maneuver known as a leg wrap.
With a sigh, the woman in blue jeans introduced herself. “My name is Angelina. This,” she pointed to the window and the people inside, “ is a milonga: a place where tango, and only tango, is danced. That piece of music, the cortina, is used to separate a group of songs, called a tanda. If you are at all familiar with Argentine Tango, then you must know, this is no ordinary group of milongueros, those who dance tango with a passion beyond reason.”
“I should have known you were not one them from your breath. It is too good.” She spoke as if she were thinking aloud. Then she continued, “Here, give me your hand.”
Sheepishly, he held out his arm. In a flash, she clipped a handcuff on it and he quickly realized the other end was clipped to the steel pole supporting the roof of the stairway.
“Relax, “ she commanded, “I’m not going to hurt you. I need to tell you, those are not human beings that you see in there. They are zombiesss!” The word ‘zombies’ came out of her mouth like a loud hiss.
At the word ‘zombies’, Zach’s eyes widened with horror and disbelief. He looked at her sideways, studying her expression for a sign that she was joking. She was not.
Again, she continued to explain, “Your girlfriend…..”
“Nina, yes,” he said.
“I’m afraid she is not interested in you. She must be evil or he would not have chosen her. Once the song ends, she will be dead.”
Perplexed, his eyebrows narrowed deeply with concern, “What song? What are you talking about? What do you mean, zombies?” His voice grew louder with each question, until he was yelling at her. He was becoming frantic, hysterical, because of what he feared might happen, because he was handcuffed to this pole. He yanked at his chain furiously.
Calmly, she answered, “La Cumparsita, it is a tradition amongst those who danced tango in Argentina before it was outlawed in their own country. This song is always the last song of the last tanda of the night, for the Traditionalists. Those people in there, no, those THINGS in there, they follow all the old ways. Hear that,” she put her hand to her ear, “that is it, there, La Cumparsita! Now, they feast!”
When she finished speaking, a scream pierced the air, loud and long, and then suddenly silent. Through the dirty windows he could see the dark-haired man’s mouth near Nina’s ear. He was asking her a question as the others lashed into her body with their teeth like piranhas on a carcass. A hand reached its fingers into her eye sockets that disappeared into her skull. Nina seemed to nod her head sobbing, being eaten alive and the dark-haired man opened his mouth close to hers. He saw a tiny blue flame escape from her lips and float into the man’s open maw before she vanished beneath a sea of heads.
Zach’s face turned shock-white with horror as he heard the sound of flesh being torn, sinews snapping, bones breaking. It sounded like wild dogs tearing apart a hedgehog but he knew it was not, it was a human, a woman who hours before had planted a kiss on his cheek, telling him she’d be right back. It was all so surreal, like a horror movie coming true. He pulled at the handcuffs so hard that the skin came off his wrist and it slid free.
Angelina, astonished at this feat of terror, blocked him with her body, throwing her arms around him.
“Leave her go!” She cried, “They will eat you, too. They do not know what they are doing when they are like this. They won’t know you are not evil, that you don’t deserve to die….like….like this.”
A pair of eyes came flying through the doorway and landed at the bottom of the stairway.
“They don’t like the eyes.” Angelina stated flatly, holding onto Zach with all her might. “I know, it is horrible.”
Horror gave way to shock and Zach's fury gave way to exhaustion, his body becoming limp. Angelina pressed her shoulder into his torso and guided him up the stairs, grabbing her bloodied handcuffs on the way. In the alley, she led him to a rugged mountain bike, secured with a thick chain.
“C’mon,” she said, getting onto the bike and motioning for him to climb aboard.
Zach’s head was spinning. A few moments ago he was in a hopeless relationship with an upper-class debutante and now he was living in a world where things like zombies were real. He wondered who this woman was and where she was taking him on her bicycle?
Zombie-like, he swung his leg over the frame and grabbed onto her shapely waist.
They whizzed along the streets and sidewalks of Philadelphia, down Broad Street, past brightly lit Independence Hall to Chestnut Street. Taxicabs veered dangerously close to them as they crossed the bridge over the Schuylkill River. He looked at her and she seemed unperturbed by the close call.
She huffed and puffed as she pedaled, but never slowed down. To him, she seemed driven, maybe to the point of recklessness, as she steered them in and out of traffic. They passed through the University of Pennsylvania campus, to a large building with rows and rows of windows. They rolled onto grass and debarked.
She led him down some steps and through a locked steel doorway in the basement of the building. When the lights came on, he was surprised to see what looked like a scene from his high school chemistry lab: black marbled tables, Bunsen burners, flasks filled with green fluids. In the corner he noticed a small cot covered with a wool blanket.
“Welcome to my abode,” she said, extending her arm outward in a sweeping motion. “Now, let’s take a look at that wrist.” She grabbed his arm and held it up for examination.
She dropped it abruptly and walked over to one of the flasks, picking it up and holding it to the light.
“Here, let’s put some of this on that wound.” Angelina stated, moving back to him and seizing his arm, once again.
Suspiciously, Zach asked, “What’s that?”
She said, “I call it Boolean Glue. I synthesized it from moss that grows in caves, deep in the Andes Mountains of Argentina. It seems to search your DNA and knows, incredibly, just which body part it is supposed to heal.”
She put on a pair of latex gloves and picked up a white cloth. She poured some of the liquid onto the cloth and spread it all over his bloodied wrist.
“It is very potent medicine,” Angelina cautioned and led him over to the tiny cot.
At first, Zach noticed a slight chill from the green goo. By the time he sat down on the wool blanket, he felt as if his wrist was being turned inside out. The pain shot up his arm to his head. Suddenly he saw stars that gave way to the blackness of space. His vision faded and he fell sideways, guided onto the bed by the steady hands of Angelina.
“Oh,” he heard her say, as his consciousness faded, “this is experimental. Hopefully, you won’t turn into a zombie.”
He awoke later and it was light outside. His head ached and his wrist burned like it was on fire. White gauze and surgical tape covered his wound. Angelina was sitting on the edge of one of the marble tables, staring at him, studying him.
“Very powerful medicine,” she said, “that Boolean Glue. It is an invention of mine. I’m a professor of chemistry here at the university. I’m working on an antidote. I hope you don’t mind, I took the liberty to take a sperm sample, maybe two.”
Astonished, Zach squeaked loudly, “What! What...a sperm sample? What does that mean? An antidote? How…..?”
His mind raced back to last night’s events, to the zombies, the scream. Then he remembered her words as he passed out from the medicine, “turn into a zombie.”
Again, he asked, his face contorted, trying to understand the impossible, “An antidote for what? And how….? A sperm sample?”
“Yes,” she said, unapologetically. “I think I might have taken three, but one can’t be sure. Maybe the first one was just practice.” She smiled slightly and turned her head away. Then she began again, “I synthesized the Boolean Glue myself. You are the first person I’ve tried it on. I believe it is the chemical the fungus emits that makes them zombies, but….I could be mistaken.”
Reaching behind her, she grabbed a pear and took a big bite out of it. She continued to stare at him.
“You’re crazy,” he yelled, finally at the edge of his wits, “you’re really fucking crazy! Who are you? How could you? A sperm sample? Really?”
He stood up as he said this and noticed his pants were gone. He was standing there naked from the waist down. He picked his jeans up from the floor, put them on and ran out the door. Spying her bike leaning against a railing, he took it and rode off.
An hour later he was at the scene of the crime, yellow police tape blocked his entrance to the alley. Detectives and crime-scene photographers were everywhere. There was a policeman standing at the tape and he spotted the bandage on Zach’s wrist.
“Hey, kid, what happened to you?” He asked.
Zach looked at his bindings and said, “uh, ah, nothing.”
Nervous, he turned to walk away when the policeman yelled at him, “Hey, stop right there.”
In a flash he was back on the bike pedaling back the way he came, several cop cars in hot pursuit, lights flashing brilliant bursts of red and blue. Because of traffic he managed to elude capture until he got to the Chestnut Street Bridge and was met by flashing lights coming from the other side of the waterway: he was trapped!
He turned to ride back and crashed into the shopping cart of a homeless woman. She began striking him furiously. As he tried to pull her off him, he heard a voice booming over a bullhorn, “Freeze! Freeze or we’ll shoot!”
He broke free of the lady and was struck in the chest by several bullets. He spun to his left and vaulted off the bridge, falling one hundred feet into the Schuylkill River. As he plunged beneath the surface, he looked at his right wrist and saw the bandage was ripped off. His eyes widened when he saw his skin was completely healed. He felt feint then all went black.
Zach awoke on a gurney, back in Angelina’s lab. He was cold and the room seemed silent. Somehow, he knew he was naked, covered by a thick white cotton sheet. There was an intense pain in his chest and abdomen. He wondered how he got here and tried to remember last night’s events. Was it last night? A window near the ceiling told him it was dark out.
“You’re awake!” Angelina shouted, her face popping into his field of vision, suddenly. “Oh, I bet you have some questions for me. I know, I know, you’re mad at me. You have every right to be but these are desperate times.”
She disappeared from his sight. He could barely hear the sounds of her skittering around the lab. He tried to raise his head in vain. He moved his arm but it took a great effort.
“Stay still,” she commanded. “You’re still a zombie and I need you to be still just for a moment.”
Looking towards his feet, through his eyelashes and past his nose, he could see her holding his arm, a hypodermic needle poised to deliver its payload into the vein of his left arm.
With a giggle, she said, “This won’t hurt a bit. Nightie-night.”
He could see the needle going into his arm but he didn’t feel it. Slowly he became aware of a tiny bit of liquid inside his arm: it burned. It seemed to be liquid fire and it was growing. It spread in both directions from his elbow to his fingers, and to his shoulder. The pain was intense.
He tried to scream but all he could hear was a muffled groan. He wondered if the sound was coming from him. The pain spread to his brain. His entire body convulsed and spasmed. His spine tried to leap off the table but was held down by his young body. He felt as if he were completely engulfed in flames. He tried, again and again, to scream, hearing only groans, then, finally, a change in pitch before he passed out.
When he awoke again, daylight beamed in through the window. This time he sat bolt upright. He noticed that his body was different, he felt…alive! Still draped in the white sheet, he moved both his legs beneath the cover. His hands went to his chest where the bullets struck him. To his amazement, he was completely healed. Holding up his right wrist, he ran his fingers over the place where the handcuff had scraped his skin off.
“Hello,” a voice said behind him.
He swung his legs around, holding onto the sheet to maintain his integrity. He was hit in the chest with a some clothes. It was her, Angelina. He groaned and the sound of it felt good in his throat. Every nerve in his body tingled, his muscles were relaxed and rested. His brain, however, was spinning. He was so confused. His instinct told him to run but he didn’t like how that turned out last time, so he just sat there, holding the clothes against his body.
“I guess I owe you an explanation,” she began, dressed in a white lab coat, blue jeans and sneakers. “I hesitate to give you the full truth because I believe men can’t handle the truth. You’re likely to run out and get yourself shot all over again. I had to pull a lot of strings to get you back. Get dressed, and please, please, listen to the whole story before you bolt out of here like a bat out of hell.”
Zach stared at her, dumbfounded, then began putting on the clothes: a t-shirt, underwear, white cotton pants and a pink, short-sleeved dress shirt.
While he dressed, she continued her story, “First, the Boolean Glue I used to heal your wrist is an invention of mine, synthesized from a South American moss called hyacintho mortuus musco: 'blue moss dead man’ in Latin, ‘zombie moss’ to the locals. I discovered it on a dig near Machu Picchu. I used it first on my dog, Einstein. He was old and had severe arthritis. I put some glue on his back but he died, came back to life and kept trying to eat my leg. I couldn’t sleep with him in the room or I’d wake up to find him chewing on my toes.”
She hoisted herself up onto a table with ease and proceeded with her story, “I realized, too late for Einstein, that the application of the glue needed to be a two part process: Boolean Glue for the wound, followed by a special testosterone serum after healing had been achieved. To make it easy for your one-track mind: the glue turns you into a zombie and the serum brings you back to life, real life as a real human not just a mindless body hungry for flesh controlled by abstract forces of the universe that are beyond your ability to understand.”
“It takes seventy-two hours for your body to complete the zombification process. In that time, you were pulled from the river, declared dead and sent to the morgue where I retrieved you for organ donation. Your parents were quite surprised, and, despite their obvious remorse, were quite proud of you, being so selfless with your remains.”
Jumping off the table, the Wiccan walked about the room and carried on with her explanation of events. “The zombies are from Argentina. I believe they were kidnapped as part of Operation Independence in the 1970s by the right-wing government. They were imprisoned in a place where zombie moss grew and operated on by the nefarious Nazi, Dr. Mengele in cooperation with my father who is now a Mayan Blood God trying to take over the universe.”
All this was too much for the young man to believe and all he could do was mutter incoherently. She nodded in understanding and continued.
“This zombie moss is strange. It restores its host’s body to functionality with a limited brain capacity leaving it susceptible to manipulation by the fungus but also any other life form capable of making a mental connection, kind of like a wifi hotspot with no password.”
“I’ll bet you’d like a nice hot cup of coffee.” She offered.
To Zach’s surprise, he found this incredibly appealing.
“That’s one of the side-effects,” she said, “an insatiable desire for caffeine.” She walked over to a coffee maker, something he hadn’t noticed before, and continued talking while preparing the brew in a large white Styrofoam cup. “Sugar, too, but both cravings will subside once the medicine wears off and your normal body functions resume.”
“You’re probably wondering who I am. I am Doctor Angelina Jones. I graduated summa cum laude from Harvard, with dual degrees in medicine and chemistry, at the ripe old age of eighteen. I am a Wiccan, that is a witch. I am sixty-four years old and I’m here to prevent a total collapse of civilization as we know it and I can do it with your help, if you please.”
“I’ll bet you’re incredibly horny, another side-effect I’m afraid. There are some cupcakes upstairs and I can help you with that other thing.” She pointed to his waist, “maybe we can take another sperm sample?”
At that moment, Zach realized he now had the most incredible hard-on. His penis was visibly pushing against the sheet and he had the most profound craving for chocolate.
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