Authors: Norman Christof
No, no, no. That’s not who you are. You’re not one of them, you’re not one of them. You’re like me. You’re more like me. Hold back … please hold back.
Andreas had been held back for too long, and his instincts won out. He looked to Christa and answered in her head, this time without pain. For the first time she heard another one in her head that wasn’t suffering, and Andreas said,
You’ve freed me. Thank you.
Abby sat in the dimly lit room, waiting. Her feet were chained to the only chair in the room, and her hands were cuffed to the table.
I don’t know why these bastards do this to me every time I want to have a conversation with my son. It’s not like I’m a danger to him. I’ve never attacked anyone. They’re just trying to make a point. They want me to know who’s in control. They better give me my full fifteen minutes. That was the deal.
Abby heard the door unlock and looked up. Caius had chains on his ankles and wrists. He stood in the open doorway, hesitant to move. His head had been shaved, and his once flowing blond locks were nothing but bristly stubble. He didn’t enter the room until the guard behind pushed him. There was no other chair in the room, so he stood in front of the table facing his mother. The guard gave her a stern look and said, “Fifteen minutes starting now.” The guard pushed Caius just a little bit further so he could swing the door shut. The sound of the lock clicking was the only sound in the room.
“It’s good to see you, Caius. I’ve really missed you this month. I’m sorry we weren’t able to stay together, but the prison is quite strict with segregating men and women. I pleaded with them to keep us together. I know they make exceptions sometimes, but they seem intent on making an example of us. Our current government takes every opportunity to convince the public they’re hard on crime.”
Caius never said a word. He just stared straight ahead past his mother at the wall behind her, refusing to make eye contact.
“Caius, please. We have to come together now. I know it’s been tough these past few years on the run, and I know the trial has made it worse. Please believe that I had your best interests in mind when we left the country. It wasn’t safe here with all the freaks running rampant.” Caius bristled and drew in a big breath at the mention of the word freaks.
“How’s my sister?” he asked.
“Shax is, well … Shax. She won’t speak to me. Same as before. She barely eats. I’m scared for her. It’s like she doesn’t care about anything anymore. Not even herself. I haven’t seen her smile since they took you away. It’s not good for her. She’s too young to be this bitter. I can’t request another visitation with you for another month. You can request one though. I want you to see her. I don’t think she’s going to last another month. She’s drifting even further from me. You’re the only one she talked to during the trial. Please, request a visitation with her. Maybe if she saw you, she’d snap out of it. You could talk to her. She’s your little sister. Your only sibling.”
Caius looked at his feet, then shook his head and smiled as he looked up at the ceiling. He was still refusing to make eye contact with his mother.
“I’ve already used my visitation for the month. I can’t see anyone else either.”
“Who would you have seen? We don’t know anyone else here. I don’t understand.”
Caius continued looking at the ceiling without an answer.
“So it’s true then? I heard rumors. You met with those people. The Freeze. Is that what they call themselves now? They’re wrong, Caius. They just want to use you, they don’t care about you. You need to stay away from them.”
Caius turned his back on his mother and called for the guard. “Guard, I’m done. I want out of here.”
Abby’s head drooped as she said, “Caius, you don’t remember the freaks. You were only ten when we left, and we did our best to keep you sheltered. You don’t know what they were capable of. It’s why your father went to fight. He didn’t want to leave you. He did love you, it’s just fighting them was all he knew. This Freeze faction is all wrong. They want to stop the drug. The drug that’s keeping those freaks under control. They think it’s inhumane to treat the freaks that way, Caius, but they’re wrong.”
Caius ignored her and called for the guard once more. The guard answered through the intercom, “You’re stuck in there for fifteen minutes, kid. That’s the deal. The lady gets her fifteen minutes, so suck it up.”
Abby continued, “Listen to me, Caius. They’re after you for your family connections, that’s all. They’re just trying to draw attention to their cause through the media attention around this case. They’ll just use you and throw you away after it’s all done. They don’t care about you.”
Caius turned around, looked Abby straight in the eye and said, “Well, Mom, at least they told me the truth about Father.”
“What truth, Caius? What could they possibly know that we don’t?”
Caius smiled and shook his head. Leaning in closer he said, “They told me he’s awake.” Abby tilted her head and fought back a tear. “That’s right, Mom, Dad’s awake. Alive and kicking just like before, but no sign of him in sight. He’s made no effort to come here.” Abby couldn’t stop the tear from trickling down her cheek. “C’mon, Mom, don’t pretend like you didn’t already know. You just didn’t think I needed to know. Sheltering me again, Mom? Just like from the freaks? That’s a great excuse for everything, isn’t it? Tell me something, Mom. What are you going to do when I’m too old to be sheltered from things? Then what will your excuse be for lying to me? What will be your excuse for all the bad choices you’ve made then?”
“Caius, I was going to tell you. When you were ready. I just didn’t want to see you get hurt again. There’s been so much hurting in this family the past few years.”
“Mom, I’m old enough now. I’m ready. You can stop protecting me and stop worrying about the decisions I make, or who I choose to spend my time with. I’m done with all this.”
The door opened and the guard stepped in and said, “Time’s up, let’s go.”
Abby pleaded, “What about your sister? She needs someone.”
Caius looked back over his shoulder as he was escorted out. “Not my concern anymore, Mom. You’re going to have to figure that one out all by yourself.”
The door closed and locked. Abby was left alone with her thoughts and her tears.
From On High
The board room on the top floor was not your run-of-the-mill executive office. It had plenty of plush chairs surrounding the very expensive handcrafted board table, fifty chairs to be exact: twenty-four along each side, then one at each end. While the chairs along the side were plush and built for those accustomed to seats of power, they were also smaller and shorter than the ones on the ends. Each chair on the end sat a full three inches taller than the others, with extra padding on the arms and headrests. The stitching was more elaborate and the leather thicker.
For the moment though, the room was virtually empty. Except for two men seated at opposite ends of the long board table, there was no one else present. Neither man acknowledged the other. They were both glued to the screens in front of them. Reams of data swarmed across the screens, complete with graphs and videos of events taking place in the Americas. It was mostly from the former United States of America, but there were also data and video feeds coming in from what had been Canada and Mexico.
After thirty minutes of taking in the data and videos, both men joined each other at the large window running the length of the room. The view of the city and the landscape beyond was magnificent. The top floor of the tallest building in the world offered a spectacular vista.
The first man remarked, “Looking down from such a height does indeed make matters below seem insignificant, wouldn’t you agree?”
The second man breathed in deeply through his nose and replied, “That’s why we’re here, isn’t it? To take the pressure off. The distance makes the matter of a few million people seem distant and removed. If we were right in the heart of it, there’s no doubt we’d be making different choices.”
“Agreed. It’s important to be impartial and objective today. The pawns shouldn’t hold sway here. Some are bigger pawns than others, but nonetheless, they’re all pawns.”
“The machine Kongod seems to be functioning appropriately as far as the Americas are concerned. Things for the most part are going as we anticipated. I don’t think the technicians need to change anything this time around.”
“Yes, they do seem to be getting back on their feet quite quickly. No other country has ever recovered so fast from a war as they have. Of course, they did have help. Monitoring their culture and developing Kongod was nothing less than a stroke for genius for our people.”
“It was a gamble that luckily paid off. No one ever anticipated the Americas surviving this plague of zombies. They were supposed to have been wiped out years ago. Quarantining them till they all perished would have been the simpler solution. We could have just recolonized the countries in a few decades.”
“Agreed, yes, but this is far more interesting, wouldn’t you say? Much more like a game of chess than a game of nuclear war. Nuclear war is just so one-sided and obvious. I like the challenge of this one. Plus, the potential for profit is huge. We have an entire continent where the slaves outnumber the rest of the population by almost ten to one. No one cares about the injustice of slavery.”
“The Freeze revolutionaries would disagree. They take issue with the way zombies are treated with Pacize.”
“Kongod is working through the scenarios. The predicted probabilities look good, and it will be just a matter of time before the regent is given the appropriate choices.”
“Choices … humph, yes. All mathematically planned to tilt in our favor.”
“There is one other matter of concern. The one Kongod never predicted.”
“Ah yes, the old war hero. Wasn’t he scheduled to expire?”
“He was supposed to, but it appears he’s awoken from his coma. That’s not a scenario that showed on any of Kongod’s possible outcomes. Maybe the techs should have a look at that.”
“There’s no need. It can handle unforeseen outcomes. Just give it time to work through the permeations. I’m quite sure that things will come back around in our favor. Keep extra monitors on him if that makes you feel better.”
“Yes, I will, and yes, I do feel better about it.”
Looking off into the distance the first man remarked, “Things look a little stirred up over there on the horizon.”
“Yes, it looks like another sandstorm is working itself across the dunes. No need to worry, we’ll be protected here in the city.”
“I wasn’t worried. Remember, from this height up everything below is insignificant.”
Captain Willie’s body was eviscerated and his vital organs lay sprawled across the deck. His limbs were at unnatural angles, and his head barely remained attached to his shoulders. The stench was vile. Even worse than usual for a ship that had transported thousands of zombie corpses for the past five years. There’s something about the inside of a real human body that reeks more than a zombie corpse. Zombies may not be as pretty as humans on the outside, but at least on the inside there wasn’t much left to stink up the place.
Christa sat at the edge of the hold on the verge of tears.
This is not what I wanted. This is not the way it should have happened. How did I not see the captain approaching? I should have sensed him. I’m responsible for this. I caused this. My stupid overexcitement at finally getting through to Andreas caused this. This won’t be easily covered up. Sure, we can get rid of the body, but what about Andreas? He can’t go back amongst humans. Look what he did.
Christa looked for Andreas and found him not far from the remains of Captain Willie. He was crouched in a fetal position, rocking back and forth, babbling to himself. Christa got up and walked cautiously towards him. Andreas kept rocking and babbling. He barely noticed her when she stood right next to him. Christa looked down at Andreas and shook her head.
“I had so much hope for you. You were the strongest mind I’ve come across in the past six years. You were going to be the one to fix it all. I had such high hopes. But, look what you’ve done. You’re an animal. Just like those freaks the colonel hated. Just like all of them hated. Why would you do that? You could have stopped him without killing him. You’re stronger and faster. What happened?”
Andreas looked up at her like a small child that knows he’s done something wrong and is about to be punished, but doesn’t know why.
“It was something inside of me … Christa? Your name’s Christa, right? I don’t know how I know that.”
She answered slowly, “Yes, I’m Christa. I’m the one that talked with you before. Before you did that.” She motioned to the deck covered in blood and entrails. “What do you remember? Anything?”
“I don’t remember doing that.” Andreas indicated the captain’s mutilated body. “I’m covered in blood. I must have, why would I do that?”
“You don’t remember being a zombie? A freak?”
“No, I wasn’t. I couldn’t have been.”
Christa crossed her arms. “What do you remember? What’s the last thing you remember doing before you were here?”
“I remember being at a party with my buddies. We’d all been laid off that week from the plant, and we were partying hard. It was great. Not having to get up every morning and go into that shitty factory. We all hated it, but we needed the money. We blew a ton of dough on prostitutes the night before, and they ripped us off. They waited till we passed out, then emptied our wallets. Stupid bitches!”
Christa just shook her head. “You’re a real piece of work, aren’t you? And I had such high hopes.”
Andreas sneered. “High hopes. For me? That’s a laugh. You’d be the first person in my life to have high hopes for me.”
“You … you were the only zombie I’ve been able to reach in six years of trying. Do you realize how many I tried to connect with? Hundreds. The first time I finally succeed, and this is what you do. You’re the kind of jerk that gets drunk and hires prostitutes. Then, the first chance you get to make your own choice, you decide to rip a person apart.”
Andreas stood up quickly and staggered back. “Why did you call me a zombie? I’m not one of those damn freaks. My brother died fighting in the war against those freaks. I’m not one of them.”
“Yes, as a matter of fact you were. Not now though. You’ve changed. I know, because I’ve been there. I went through what you’re going through.”
“You. No damn way you were a freak. Look at you, you’re too hot to have been one of them.”
Christa glared back at him. “Shut the hell up. Don’t ever talk about me like that. You don’t ever get to talk about me like that. Never again.”
“Sorry. Jeez, I meant it as a compliment.”
Christa pointed a finger at him. “Never again.”
Christa started pacing around the deck while Andreas watched her. For the first time, she noticed Leekasha. Leekasha hadn’t moved from her spot since the captain’s untimely demise. She just stood there and stared back and forth at the two of them. Andreas noticed Christa staring at Leekasha as well, and asked, “What’s she doing? Why does she keep looking at us?”
Christa answered, “She’s looking for direction. She doesn’t know what to do next. The captain was her controller and now he’s gone. She’s waiting for one of us to tell her what to do.”
“She’ll do whatever someone tells her to do?”
“Yes, that’s what the drug does to them. It makes them mindless passive robots. Well, not really mindless. Their minds … your mind until just a few minutes ago … are disconnected from their bodies.” Andreas looked confused. “It’s complicated. I’ll explain things later. Right now, we have a huge damn mess on our hands. Thanks to you, the first human has died at the hands of a zombie in six years. For six whole years the war has been over, and in a single instant you and I have started it up again. They can’t find out what happened here. There’s no way I’m going to be responsible for the deaths of millions of zombie slaves. That’s what they’ll do. They’ll kill every single one of them out of fear and desperation.”
Andreas looked even more confused than ever. “Who will? What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about the genocide of an entire species. I’m talking about every zombie being murdered by those that control them. Every human in the Americas will act on instinct. They remember what the war was like. If they believe even for an instant that their zombie slaves can turn on them, they’ll murder every last one of them.”
Now Andreas looked scared. “So, now what do we do? We need to get out of here before they find us.”
Christa thought for a moment. “We need to scuttle the boat. This boat can never reach shore. There’ll be no way to explain all of this away.”