Read Netherstream - Episode 1: Jane Doe Online
Authors: S.E. Gordon
Tags: #humor, #horror, #zombie, #adventure, #Zombies, #action, #walking dead, #comedy
By Scott Gordon
Photo by Ana Fagarazzi
© 2012 S.E. Gordon. All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form (electronic, mechanical or otherwise) without the express written consent of the author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locations or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.
First Edition (v1.2)
Originally published on November 14, 2012
Updated November 8, 2013
E-book formatting, cover and design by S.E. Gordon.
Cover image © Ana Fagarazzi.
This book is dedicated to
the beautiful and talented
Why does it have to be like this? No matter how hard I try, something’s always waiting to bite me in the ass. I’ve changed names several times just to throw bad luck off my tracks, but it always seems to nip me in the end.
This mess. My life. One.
And now this shit…
I’m not the cure, and certainly not a savior. I’m just a lowly bellhop. Here are your bags, sir. Thank you for the generous tip. Excuse me while I put a bullet in the zombie at the end of the hall. Enjoy your stay at the Black Diamond Regency!
Perhaps it would be easier if I crossed to the other side, and joined the mindless hordes that skulked the streets at night. But fate had other plans for me, and would eventually grant my wish.
Three months. That’s all I’d worked at this shit hole. I was the first and only female bellhop, and you bet your ass I was proud of it. All of 98 pounds, the hotel staff watched in amusement as I hauled off bags more than twice my size. My short temper and sassy mouth certainly didn’t endear me to the critics, but everyone respected me, otherwise, I’d kick their ass.
“You charmed your way onto the staff,” the girls would say, but that was just a nice way of saying that they thought I was banging the boss in the bell closet. They were jealous, of course, and never would admit that such an original idea had crossed their empty skulls. They could be bellgirls too, if they wanted. It was convenient for them to sit behind the front desk and look pretty, but it took fucking balls to parallel park some rich asshole’s Mercedes in public parking during a rainstorm when the garage got full.
All of the attendants were sharks, including me. Leave your post and you missed out. Everyone knew it, but most of the guys didn’t care. But I cared, and didn’t expect anything to be handed to me just because of my athletic body and fair complexion. I busted my ass for every penny and wouldn’t have had it any other way. And though people frequently underestimated me, it gave me a significant advantage in my dealings with them. Those chumps!
I grabbed the bar and pulled myself up a dozen times. Damn, I was already getting tired. I used to be able to do twenty, no problem, but these days I could barely crack ten. Even worse, it had been an entire week since I’d performed my trademark handstand atop the bell cart. Somewhere along the line I’d lost my verve.
Today was my lucky day, though. I pushed off the bar and straightened my body into a perfect line. I held myself there for a minute before finally relenting. “You’ve still got it, girl.” I cracked my neck, and hopped off the cart.
Damn, I felt old. I had to be the oldest 20-year-old on the planet. Even though I still wasn’t legal drinking age, no one seemed to mind. A shot of Tequila and a few Margaritas didn’t do for me what it used to. These days, I had to unload an entire magazine from my M16 just to get a thrill.
At least I wasn’t in demand anymore. It’s nice to be ignored, especially by my zombie brethren. Feeders no longer seek nourishment from my flesh, though at the time, I wasn’t exactly sure why. They’d learned their lesson, and now barely noticed me at all.
I had plenty of scars to show for it, though. Some people collect tattoos; I collect bite marks. They reminded me of how many times death had visited me and come up empty.
Fate can be a slippery thing sometimes, and roles can be reversed in the blink of an eye. Before I was just a drone, not unlike the walkers outside, fulfilling the customer’s every wish for the “greater good” of the company. Now I owned the place, or close to it. And once the customers had devoured the staff, the keys to the kingdom were entrusted to me.
Unleash an army of the dead and you shall become king; at least, that’s how Ash did it.
I made myself a cup of Earl Grey, and watched a few lost souls stagger by. Zombies used to come right up to the door and snap at me. They always left a bloody mess, and sometimes I wondered if I’d ever get the front of the house back into respectable condition. But once they’d had a taste of me, and realized that there wasn’t an ounce of fresh meat inside, they lost interest in the hotel. Little by little, their ranks dwindled. These days only a handful came by. Hopefully they wouldn’t change their minds.
I swallowed the last of my tea, and set the cup on the empty bell cart. Rarely did I use the carts for anything other than transporting dead bodies, but occasionally there were a few other uses for them. I pushed the cart, broke into a sprint, and jumped aboard. The cart sailed through the lobby before veering off and crashing into the concierge’s desk. I fell off the cart and landed on my back.
The crazy shit I did these days for a laugh.
It was fucking pathetic!
The cherry wood desk was a French import, made exclusively for the hotel. It was one of many rare items that adorned the lobby, but the only one that I liked to fuck with. The concierge who sat behind it treated it like her throne. Anyone who did not sit at her table was beneath contempt, even the General Manager. Although Marge was a cranky, old bitch, she had something that the others didn’t: a ravenous, killer instinct. And if I had to pick who would survive a nuclear winter, I’d pick her every time, even over the almighty cockroach.
If Marge had something to say, she’d say it to your face. Once, and only once. Hell, she was going to die anyways; she didn’t really give a shit. And in the paradox of this life, I found that I enjoyed her far more now that she was dead.
“Sleeping on the job again, Marge?” I got up and pushed aside the cart.
The zombie groaned, rubbing her face in a pool of blood and spit. She peered up, caught a glimpse of me, and then planted her face back in the muck. Bloodstained files and papers were strewn across the desk, remnants of a personal project that would go unfinished without divine intervention.
“Come on, let’s clean up this mess.” I scooped up a handful of papers and dumped them in the trashcan.
Marge clung to the pile in front of her for dear life.
“You won’t find what you’re looking for in there, no matter how hard you try. Eventually you have to let go.” I grabbed a bottle of disinfectant and sprayed her in the face.
Marge squawked and then sneezed blood all over the cherry wood finish.
“I should have seen that coming.” I swabbed her nose with a paper towel, and then used the other end to wipe the desk clean.
The zombie stared at me, her memory sparked for an instant. She rose on her weary legs, grabbed the roll of paper towels, and rubbed the desk. When Marge grew tired of imitating me, she dumped the entire roll in the trashcan and looked back.
“That’s the spirit, Marge!” I patted her gently on the shoulder. I guess you can teach a decomposing corpse new tricks.
Margaret Smith was a middle-aged woman on the wrong side of forty, originally hired as a Front Desk Agent when she graduated from high school. Over the course of her employment, she had stints in Housekeeping and Room Service before returning to the front of the house for good.
Marge was old school, raised by nuns and emphatic that everything had to be done in a precise manner. “Everything has a proper place if you look,” she’d remind me at least once a day. The hag was hardcore, and wouldn’t let anyone outwork her, not even me.
Though a shadow of her former self, she still patrolled the lobby and picked up debris off the floor, making a bigger mess in the process. Still, I didn’t mind. One percent of Marge was better than one hundred percent of the dimwit douche bags that used to run the joint.
“Do you know what day of the week it is?” I held up a thin bar of soap.
Marge looked at the bar, and then at me.
“That’s right, Tuesday. Time to get washed up and-” I caught a whiff of her. “Uh…you smell rank.” I coughed, the odor clinging to my nostrils.
With surprising speed, the zombie snatched the bar of soap from me. She bit off a chunk, wrapper and all. When she realized that it wasn’t Hershey’s, she moaned, dropped it in the trashcan, and walked away.
Marge was the third to be infected on that fateful day six months ago. As always, she was sitting behind the concierge’s desk when a young man staggered into the lobby and vomited on a Front Desk Agent.
If you’ve ever worked behind the desk, you’ve probably heard a million stories about customers behaving badly and experienced quite a few yourself. My coworker Brad told me about a cranky European lady who spit on him when he handed her the bill, and a gay guy who tried to lure him into his room with a bottle of Heineken and a coupon for free Petroleum Jelly. Customers had cursed him out, flung boogers at him, farted, and thrown popcorn in his face all during the same shift. But all of that paled in comparison to the infected drone that plastered him with the contents of his stomach.
Oh, my good friend Brad. How I miss all of you…
Brad was the first victim and very first to bite me. His death and reanimation triggered a series of disturbing events, compromising the hotel once and for all. After regurgitating on the staff, the customer jumped the counter and bit the manager. Although Brad initially hadn’t been bitten, he was already starting to turn, making me realize that the first strain of the virus was transmitted exclusively by blood. Of course, that was one of many diseases that soon visited us.
Before I understood what was going on, Marge was out of her chair and sprinting towards the disturbance. I had to hand it to that crusty, old bitch. She had rockets in those stiletto heels. While I contemplated what to do, she pushed me aside and jumped behind the desk. She peeled the customer off, blood flying in a crimson wave. Intrigued by Brad’s convulsing body, the infected slipped away from her and turned his attention on the easy kill.
He started with the face, chewing off Brad’s eyes and nose. Damn it, why did it have to be him? Why couldn’t it be Darcy, that flakey whore who was less than discreet at hiding her affair with her older, married boss? She wasn’t even on hand when it all went down, the result of a last minute favor that Darcy promised to make up to Brad. I could only imagine...
“I should have done more!” I pounded my fist on the desk.
“Mohrr…” Marge echoed the sentiment.
I jumped behind the counter and snapped the customer’s neck in one violent thrust. Damn. Where did that come from? The zombie slumped over and then rose again awkwardly, making a meal of Brad’s leg. I stomped on his face over and over again, but it did little to curtail his voracious appetite. Desperate to stop him, I grabbed a pen and stabbed him in the head. No dice. Like most guests, his skull was just too thick.
Suddenly something spun me around, shattering my arm like a pane of glass. “Are you out of your fucking mind?” I grabbed my shoulder, but it wasn’t Neal’s fault. The security guard couldn’t see anything behind the counter, just some crazy bitch who was stabbing someone over and over again. Amidst the chaos, he’d mistaken me for the perpetrator and missed a second zombie that stumbled into the lobby and latched onto his neck.