Blamers – A Short Zombie Story
That short story idea I mentioned? I carved some time today to bang it out.
There’s a lot to hate about the world today. I mean, between the lack of electricity, horrendous snarls of traffic from abandoned cars, the total absence of a friendly face, and hordes of disgusting rotting cannibalistic walking corpses – let’s face it, there isn’t much to be happy about. Unless you count being alive in the face of all this, which is sort of a mixed curse and a blessing when all is said and done.
But nevermind, that’s all neither here nor there. It’s a soul-crushing world to wake up to, sure, but human nature is human nature. So, in the face of all this mind-numbing, soul-zapping horror that has become our Way of Life here after Z-Day (or The Event, the Rising, Armageddon or Judgment Day or whatever term most floats your favorite waterborne recreational vehicle of choice), it ends up being the little things that bother me most of all. I mean, if the zombies and everything that is part-and-parcel of their presence are the mastiff-sized things that get to me, I still think it’s the gnats buzzing in my nose and my ears and in my mouth that get to me the most. Metaphorically speaking, of course. I may be alone in this, but I think it’s just Human Nature. And since you and I may be alone in this entire Eastern Seaboard, I don’t think I’m going to get much argument.
There are two things that bother me more than anything, honestly, more than the Zeds’ stupid waving arms and that moan that never stops and the smell of the entire world right now like a dead man’s armpit. One of those things makes me so depressed that I can’t sleep even through the Ambien, and the other ruins the few times I’ve ever gotten a chance to actually spend time with another survivor.
The first thing is the fact that on the first real warm day of spring, the streets aren’t going to be filled with girls finally breaking their skirts out from a long winter. It was always my favorite day of the year, an unofficial holiday. The restaurant would be full of them, college girls, professionals from D.C. (out looking for the Bohemian funky foodie vibe that Alejandro faked and cultivated), those un-and-under-employed post college people like me just drifting through life, and on that special day the whole place would be full of smiles and skirts. It was always the one day that I couldn’t care less about my tips or having to clean the stupid place after my shift. I miss that day. I think about the fact that there will probably never be a Skirt Day ever again, and it depresses me all to hell.
The second thing is smaller, and in some cases worse. I call them the Blamers.
Finding people who are people and not putrefying neck-chompers is difficult nowadays. Finding people who aren’t completely out of their minds is even tougher. Sure, it’s hard to call any of us “normal” for the most part, but people like the old man from Easton screaming about radishes from his second-story window to his lawnfull of moaning admirers are little bit more extreme in their eccentricity.
So when I do find another slightly-crazy-but-I-am-too-so-it’s-ok person in this world, it’s an event. Sure, it’s gotten to the point of near-kabuki theater set in the Old West with the wary circling, rigid smile, hands not on weapons but certainly not far, counting the knives and sidearms and looking for accoutrements like severed fingers or old dolls’ heads tied onto a belt but not trying to be too obvious about it all. Leave it to the humans to make the dog’s ass-sniffing ritual seem normal and urbane.
So once you get past all that, and you’re hunkered down in someone’s Safe Spot, sharing and swapping tins of food or dried meals or whatever it is that you’re completely sick of but want the other person to think you’re real swell for giving over, and just after you’re done with the Eating Ritual and into the Smoking Ritual (whether you observe it with stale tobacco or gum or a nip of something fermented or some other weed you’re fond of, it’s always the Smoking Ritual), that’s when you’ll find out whether or not you’re shacked up with one. A Blamer.
Blamers are all the same person, but they’ve got their different sub-species and variants and particulars. On the surface, they’re alright. They won’t try to kill you and take your stuff (yet), they’re friendly and talkative, willing to share and generally be helpful, because they need an audience that can at the very least nod and murmur general agreement and maybe give an “Amen Brother” from time to time. Because the only thing these people live for is to bitch.
Again, don’t get me wrong – a lot to bitch about in this world, and Tom Petty knows I’ve done more than my fair share since The Dead Walked and all that. It’s just that Blamers won’t let it go. All of them apparently need to blame something for everything that’s gone wrong. And they won’t shut up about it. Ever.
You know how annoying that is? I mean, here you are, on the roof of some goddamn Piggly Wiggly in a Podunk town that was probably half-dead even before the undead actually showed up, sitting with the first human being you’ve spoken to in a month, and ten minutes into the first conversation you have it’s all about the Damn Guvmint or the Military-Industrial Complex or the Unwashed Heathens or some shit, and then the questions start, and then you have to start scoping out your exits and getting your favorite knife ready because how you answer those questions are going to decide whether or not you are going to have a homicidal maniac on your hands.
Around D.C., it was all about one party or the other, or the Government in general. One of my roommates was one, back before he got tangled in that stupid shopping cart and eaten by a gaggle of bagboys and old-lady cashiers. He was a liberal, and not just any liberal but a Blogging Liberal, and he was convinced well before Z-Day that the Republicans were responsible for every bad thing that ever happened in the history of anything ever. All throughout the chaos of the first days of the U.S. Wave, when we were watching the news and reports of attacks and the crazy shit going on in the country and world, he’d blame the conservatives for everything that was happening. He’d insist on watching Fox News just so he could get first-hand exposure to the Senators and talking heads that were Ruining Our Country.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I hated those mouth-breathing pontificating idiots just as much as he did, (and watching that dewy-eyed fat little conspiracy theorist get eaten live on the air was a savage bit of pure joy for me, despite the entrails) only I hated the liberal blowhards and shitbag legislators from the Democratic party just as much. Any waiter in D.C. could tell you (if you found one alive now, which admittedly isn’t very likely unless you’re already talking to me) that both sides of the aisle can’t help talking out of the sides of their mouth and dance around any question you give them, even if it’s “would you like some water with dinner?” But he would go on and on about them all, those Evil Conservatives and the special interests and on and on. I mean, corpses were getting up off the ground and eating people, and he’s still in his hip little Snorg tee saying that he hoped people were happy, but that’s what you get when you give control of the legislature to people of a certain political orientation.
As I got a little further away from the Capitol, the preponderance of Government Blamers eased slightly, although it’s always pretty high. The only good thing about these kind of Blamers is that you know the right noises to make. A few “fuckin’ Limbaugh” or “fuckin’ Clinton” or whatever seems appropriate will generally get you through without a life-and-death struggle over your cache of Spam. They telegraph their pitch enough that you can slap a couple of line drives and keep them happy, just long enough for you to make sure you’ve got your next destination planned out and supplies ready before they say something that makes you insert a logical argument into their diatribe accidentally and make them go to Plan B.
Then there’s the Fringe Blamers, people who pick one narrow subset of something and shift all the blame into that. They could have a hate-on for scientists, the military, lawyers, terrorists, what-have-you, depending on who they think started it all. They’re more focused than the Government Blamers, which is good and bad. If you aren’t on their Hate List, you’re OK for the most part, at least for a while. You end up listening to a bunch of shitty half-baked theories, all of them the Truth About How This Started, and besides forcing yourself to nod and act like you’re listening you’re usually able to get through their speeches for a while.
Problem with these Blamers, though, is that eventually their paranoia gets the better of them, and if you aren’t careful it’s about to get the better of you. You can see it coming if you’re paying attention (and after a few hours of listening to their bullshit that’s no easy feat). They’ll say something, then get all quiet looking at the horizon, even if it’s hidden behind that board-studded door a foot in front of them, and it’s like someone whispered a little secret in their ear. They turn to you, all casual, and say something like, “You said you came from D.C., right? Lotta military folks in D.C. You sure you didn’t work at the Pentagon? Your face looks familiar, like I saw it on TV.” And you can say all you want that you’re a goddamn waiter in a shitty little formerly hip cutting edge establishment serving sweetbreads and bone marrow to assholes who pretended like they loved that sort of thing, but that’s it, it’s over. Paranoia has won the day, and the next thing you know that socket wrench they’ve been fiddling with ever since they finished that dented can of Dinty Moore is coming for your head, and It’s Officially On.
These types are bad news, but they don’t crack my Top Two Least Favorite Blamer Types.
Number two on the charts are your garden-variety Racist Blamers. They’re easy to deal with if you aren’t on their Racial Target List, and if you are, you’ve already been shot, beaten and looted before you get to the Smoking Ritual part of our Programme. Still, these assholes were difficult enough to be around before the Walking Dead showed up, and I find that my patience level for bigoted retardery has damped down somewhat with all this Fighting for Survival going on. Plus, eventually two survivor groups made of opposing Racist Blamers are going to run into each other, and that’s trouble you don’t need.
Even those idiots aren’t the worst, though. If there is one Blamer I hate to run into, it’s the Heavenly Blamer.
For these morons, all this – the corpses shuffling down the street, chasing you down with the express intention of tearing into your guts and stuffing them into their blood-crusted gaping mouths while you lie there and scream – is nothing but God’s Will. Or Allah’s Retribution, or the Wheel of Karma, or whatever it is that a Buddhist would give credit to starting the End of Days (my guess is it involves an elephant or something – truth is, I never really knew any Buddhists). One thing all the world’s disparate belief systems hold in common after Z-Day, the one thing they can all get together and nod sagely over, is that this shit is the Sinner’s Fault. Or Your Fault, because, my friend, they are one and the same.
I mean, before Zombie Walk for Real Day, it was enough of a stomach-dropper to get in the back of a van while hitchhiking and have the skinny dude riding back there with you if you’ve taken Jesus Christ into your heart as your Lord and Savior. At least back then you could nod and say brightly, “Yes I have. Praise Jesus,” and hope they drop you off at the nearest gas station. Nowadays, though, that isn’t quite enough. See, there’s too many flavors of Christianity and Islam and all the rest, with their little sects and in-groups and quirks, for you to keep them all straight. Hang around long enough, and you’ll slip up and hit your thumb nailing up a last-second barricade against the pressing mass of a ravenous zombie mob, and you let fly with a loud “Goddamnit” just purely out of reflex and you aren’t even aware of it until everyone is safely shut in and breathing hard and looking at you like you tracked in something on the bottom of your shoe and then you think “oh shit” and next thing you know you’re the subject of some sermon about the Evils of the World and Divine Punishment and you’re staring into the dead eyes of a hundred former men and women – just before they decide to feed you to the zombies.
Man, it’s gotten to the point now that I see a white-tabbed collared shirt, and I just take my chances outside with the creepers.
With these guys, you either mumble a few hossanahs and slip out as soon as you can, or you become the biggest bright-eyed zealot you can be. Sit at the leader’s feet and listen to every word he tells you like it’s the Word and let him do whatever he wants in the dark and become his Right Hand of God or Allah or Vishnu or Odin if that’s his bag and hope and pray for the best. You’ll last a while, but eventually he’ll decide that even the Faithful must be Purified, generally after someone younger or more attractive than you has shown up. Then it’s your turn.
I mean, c’mon, isn’t the world a bad enough place right now without everyone trying to blame someone else for what’s going on? Can’t we just drop it and move on with our friggin’ lives, no matter how short they may be? I swear, every time I run into someone nowadays, they end up being a Blamer of some sort. I’ve had it up to here with them. It’s their fault I can’t stay in one damn place with another human being anymore.
…So, what’s your story? You’re not a Blamer, are you? I hope not. Is that a cross you’re wearing? Flag pin on your lapel?
Here we go again. I haven’t even had time to clean my wrench from the last one.