Zombiepalooza’s first short story comes from John Hartness. It’s a fun, frightful tale of what happens when your mom turns in a zombie.
I never gave a whole lot of thought to what it must be like for the zombies. You know, I was just like everybody else: I saw a zombie, I hit it in the head with a baseball bat, or an axe, or on a really good day a chainsaw. But when my mom got infected, I really had to change my opinions on a lot of things. It’s one thing when it’s your fifth-grade PE teacher you’re shooting in the face, but it’s something entirely different when the woman who makes your pancakes every Sunday is the one trying to eat your brains.
It all started on a Sunday morning. Like I said, we had pancakes. We had pancakes every Sunday morning, even after the Plague started. I mean, you can’t let a little thing like the friggin’ zombie Apocalypse change your whole routine, can you? Well, after we finished breakfast, all of us (me, Mom, Dad, my bratty kid brother Eugene and our dog Dilbert) went into the living room to watch some TV. It was too early for the early game, so we were watching ZSN (Zombie Sports Network) just for kicks. They were showing Zombie Skeet, where they launch zombies in these huge catapult things and shoot the crap out of them with anti-aircraft guns. That used to be our favorite. Eugene was being a little snot about zombie rights, so we changed the channel to Zombie-Animal Planet, which was showing Zombie Manor, where these zombies in Africa were running from a lion. That was pretty cool, too, but needed more explosions.
Anyway, we were all chillin’ out waiting for football to start when Mom decided to go get the newspaper. Dad barely looked up from the TV, just said, “don’t forget your body armor, dear,” and went back to his show.
Mom suited up, grabbed her pink aluminum Lady Slugger, and headed down the driveway. It took us a while to notice that she’d been gone too long because just then a new episode started and there were all these cool scenes with zombies trying to run from rhinos and getting gored, and still climbing the rhinos and trying to bite through the rhino’s hide and all, until finally the rhino would run into a tree or a bus or something and put this huge hole in the side of the bus and leave zombie smeared all down the side, but because the rhino didn’t know to crush the brain, the zombie smear would just twitch and twitch until finally the camera guy went over and shot it in the head.
So we were a little distracted, and it was the second commercial break before we noticed that Mom hadn’t come back with the paper yet. So Dad suited up, and I grabbed the shotgun to go with him when he was all like “Where do you think you’re going, young man?”
And I was all like “I’m going with you to find Mom.”
And he was all like “You’ve got to stay here and protect your little brother.”
And then I was all like “He’s big enough to protect himself! And besides, I don’t care if he gets eaten, but I like Mom!”
And he was all like “I don’t care, you’re staying here.” And he had used the grown-up voice so I knew he wasn’t messing around this time. So I sat on the couch with the shotgun and watched as he went out looking for Mom. I might have slugged Eugene in his arm just for being a Eugene and generally ruining my life by his very existence, but I wouldn’t swear as to exactly how he got that bruise.
They were gone a long time, and I was actually starting to get worried about them, not to mention hungry, when Dad finally came back carrying Mom over one shoulder and swinging like a madman with her Lady Slugger. He looked pretty stupid fighting off zoms with a girly bat, but I guess he’d lost his somewhere along the way. As soon as he was in the door, he yelled “Billy, shoot!” Then he dove for the floor and I opened up on the zoms at the door. I was behind the couch using it to brace the shotgun, so my aim was pretty good. I blasted zombie brain all over the foyer until my shells ran out, and then I ran out and slammed the door. Once I got the door barred again, I looked at Dad to see if he needed my help.
He was out of breath and covered in zom-goo, but he didn’t look hurt. “Help me get your mother tied to the couch,” he panted, and I thought about how some guys had dads that used to be firemen and jocks, but my dad the accountant had somehow managed to survive getting his brains eaten all this time. I really don’t get the world sometimes.
We put Mom on the sofa, and I took her shoes off while Dad tackled her body armor. I don’t know what good it does to take your shoes off, but Mom always says after a rough day she can’t wait to get her shoes off. To me it just makes the room all stinky, but maybe Mom feet don’t stink like kid feet do.
So we got mom out of her body armor and her shoes, and then Dad ran into their bedroom. He came back with two of his ugly neckties and a pair of handcuffs covered in pink fuzzy feathers. I looked at him like “what?” and he looked back at me like “don’t ever mention this again,” so I didn’t ask. He tied Mom’s feet together and handcuffed her wrists, and then sat back down in his recliner.
“Dad, what happened?” I asked.
“Well, son, it looks like your mother got bitten by a zombie on her way to get the newspaper.”
“What are we going to do?”
“Well, we have two choices. We can either bash in her head like every other zombie out there, or we can try to keep some little shred of your mother alive in her.”
“I don’t even know what that means, dude.”
“It means we either kill her and learn to cook, or we chain her to the stove and try to stay out of biting range.”
“Oh.” I thought about that for a long time, and looked over at Mom sitting there on the couch, moaning and trying to eat the sofa. Then I had an idea. I jumped up off the living room floor and ran to my bedroom. It took a little digging, but finally, in the very back of my closet, I found what I was looking for. I ran back downstairs with my prize held high above my head, and presented it to Dad like Indiana Jones finding some cool Indiana Jones-type thing.
“What is this, son?” Dad asked.
“It’s my old catcher’s mask.”
“I know that, but why do I have it?”
“Because I gave it to you.”
“Don’t be a smartass. What am I supposed to do with it?”
“Oh. Sorry. Put it on Mom, then she can’t bite us. She’s not smart enough anymore to take it off, so then we can tie her to something in the kitchen and she can cook for us.”
So we did. And after a few days of trying to eat us and bouncing off the bars on the catcher’s mask, she finally gave up. I also gave her Eugene’s old pacifier, which he had kept all this time, even though he was like nine. He’s a weird kid, and this is coming from a guy who keeps a zombie chained to the stove. But anyway.
So Zom-Mom stays chained to the stove, and even though she’s now a brainless shambling flesh-eating fiend, she still makes killer pancakes. And if every once in a while she drops a finger into the batter, what’s the big deal? Eugene’s gotta eat something.
John Hartness is a redneck from Charlotte, NC. His first novel, The Chosen, is available for the Kindle, iPad or in analog edition. You can find out more about John at his website, www.johnhartness.com. Once upon a time, he wrote about poker under the pseudonym Falstaff. If you already knew that, you should get out more. But don’t forget your bat.