De Ondoden (chapter 1)

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1.
The room was cement. Everyone dripped sweat down their spines, their thighs, their salty hair splattered droplets everywhere to the dragging beats. I remember the cold feel of the walls against the heat of my back. I leaned against the wall, watching the undulating bodies. So dark. It was so dark in that room. Blue and green lights would flash from the ceiling lighting up a cheekbone or shoulder or, unnervingly, a wound. The man next to me spent his time gnashing his teeth to the beat, a dribble of saliva trickling down his glistening chin. I could just barely see his face and boy, was it ugly. Half of it was missing.
He turned his head to me, his muscles jerking with the effort. He was off his tits, I swear to god. Taking a moment to observe his exposed sinews and lonely socket (it was missing its old buddy, Eyeball, poor thing), I let him stroke my face slowly. I turned away, and slithered into the crowd. He was creeping me out; didn’t like how he scraped his nails on my skin.
Cloth stuck to flesh with sweat, the ripple of bodies against bodies, and the stench of sweat made me nauseous. But I stayed, letting my body rise and fall with the crowd. It was a deafening cement square, that room. My heart pounded. In between limbs, I would catch a glimpse of the half-face man, gnashing away. I felt so sick.
It felt like my ears had been stuffed with cotton. Stumbling outside into the bitter air, I could’ve sworn my entire head was filled with cotton balls. My shoes made "whump whump whump" noises as I walked, resonating deep inside my ear drums.
Maybe I shouldn’t have run away from the gnashing guy. Ondoden like that tend to have a lot of money. No joke. The undead have massive bank accounts. And until their hands rot off, they can sign away for whatever you want. That’s the great thing about ondoden. They forget about the meaning and worth of money so you can suck them dry. It’s not like they need it, really. Two weeks of being part of the living dead and you figure out all you gotta do is growl hungrily at a person and they’ll give you s*** for free. Seen it happen a million times in bars all over the city. ‘Here is your bill, sir. Will you pay by cash or credit, sir?’ and then, ‘grooAAAWWWWWWGGRHHHHH!’ poor waiter boy: ‘T-thankyou for your pat-tr-tronage, s-sir! P-please ret-turn!’
They really know how to live. What? It’s a figure of speech.
So there I was, stumbling down a dark street, lamps casting orange smears on the glistening tarmac. It was misting. I was already doused in hot sweat from the club. Tiny pinpricks of cool dotted my skin.
Dmp dmp dmp dmp dmp…
I turned around and wouldn’t ya know it? Gnashing guy was following me. I stopped and waited for him to catch up with me. In the street lights, he was alright-looking, despite missing half his face. Lucky him, if he looked the same as he did in the club, I’d’ve blasted him. There is no law against killing an ondoden. All you gotta do is scream ‘Zombie!’ and blow his head off. Noone’d care. Self defense, pal. Self defense. And it isn’t like it does anything really bad to them. They’re already dead. Just a sack of meat lurching around, decaying with each step. So it’s a favor to them, really.
Gnashing guy caught up.
‘What’s your name, buddy?’ I oozed in the sweetest voice I could. He gurgled and reached for my face. While he stroked my cheek I tried again. ‘What’s your name, sweetheart? I need a name to put to that face.’ He gurgled again. I looked him over. His neck was decimated. No voicebox. Durr. Can’t speak. He dug in his back pocket, pulled out an ID and handed it to me, still stroking my face.
I couldn’t help but laugh at the ID. His photograph was classic. He had scratched out the right side of his face on the photograph with a black marker. I like a funny undoden. But his name…
‘Harvard? Your parents named you Harvard? Like that decrepit school in America?’ I asked, trying not to laugh in his face. Harvard Lance nodded his wrecked head glumly. Back in the day, I’ve been told, Harvard was this super prestigious and snooty university in Boston or something. That was like sixty or seventy years ago. But now it’s like this place where rich people send their brattiest to try to get them to learn some manners. Bit late to do that, but I guess if you can’t raise your kids and after eighteen years you’ve had enough, sending them to a place that claims they can do it is a better option than just offing the sh*ts. I saw a picture of the school. It was one of those before and after pictures. It was of the gates. All regent-looking. Brick and metal made to look classy. It looked kind of brittle back when it was a good school, but something about it was daunting. Like, ‘as if you could get in here. We don’t have to be strong. Your patheticness is deterrent enough. F*** off’ but the ‘after’ photo gave me this sense of bitter victory. I remember sneering at the photo. The bars on the gate were all bent. Bricks were tagged with graffiti. Not a single space was paint free. There was litter all around the gate. The metal was rusting as well. Now the gates were apologizing for being such a little b****. Too late now. This is just karma.
Harvard was still stroking my face.
‘So whaddya wanna do then, Harvard?’ I asked sweetly. Harvard shrugged. He took my hand and started walking slowly. We walked down the street in silence, hand in hand.
Now. About ondoden. You’d think they were zombies. But they’re not. Zombies have only two functions: walk and eat. Ondoden do more. They walk, they run, they think, see, feel, and, if they have better luck than Harvard, speak. But sometimes they get unlucky and are confused with a zombie. Ondoden are the living dead by choice as well. When you are fifteen, you go to your local clinic and fill out a form. Pretty much, what you do is state whether or not you want to be resuscitated if you die before a certain age. You write the age that you think is reasonably ‘too young’ to die at, and then the hospital files this form away. Say you write that 42 is ‘too young’ for you. If you die at 38, your form gets whipped out and they see you aren’t at your peak age yet. So they bring you back as an ondoden. But if you die at 43, you stay dead. It’s a bit weird, but hey. Your choice. I wrote 35 for my sheet.
Zombies, however, are accidental ondoden. They are a tragedy. It’s a virus. You catch it when you are alive, and it gets carried through living hosts. It’s really hard to control because anything can be a zombie. Person, dog, fly, spider, worm, anything. No joke. Sucks. What happens when you get infected is you ‘die,’ meaning you go into a coma where all your functions slow down so much that each heart beat is about 5 hours apart. This coma lasts 12 hours. Then you ‘come back to life’. But now you really are dead. You die in the twelfth hour of the coma. But for some reason, you come back. And boy are you hungry. So you stumble out into the world, and eat anything you can get your hands on. Zombies are blind and deaf. So you can avoid them usually. But they can feel temperature changes. So, like, say you are standing in front of a stone wall. The zombie will sense the random lump of warm and stumble after it. Usually you can outrun them, but if there is a huge crowd of zombies, you’re screwed. Prepare to be food. That’s why guns are legal now. That way you can either blast your way out, or blast yourself out. Often people will start to blast their way out, but realize they’re screwed, and then blow their head off. They kill themselves partly out of fear of pain, but also to keep the virus from spreading. If you get gnawed on by a zombie, you get infected.
One interesting similarity between zombies and ondoden is they both have incredible delicate bone structures. Most handguns can make their heads explode. I carry a .44 ACP everywhere I go. My god. When the bullet hits, kra-ka-PLOOOMGPH is the exact sound it makes. They look like a disgusting firework when they get shot.
Good thing Harvard wasn’t a zombie. Ondoden have manners. They are a bit more impulsive because certain parts of their human conditioning dies when they do and just can’t come back, but overall, ondoden are nice people. If you were a nasty person when you were alive and come back as an ondoden, it’s very unlikely you will still be nasty. No one is quite sure why that is.
We walked slowly on the road as it meshed into concrete. There isn’t much tarmac in the city anymore. Just about everything is concrete. Buildings, walls and streets. An endless grey. On cloudy days, you feel like you are going to die. Sometimes I feel like my lungs are made of cement, my oesophagus slowly filling with the hardening mud. Harvard nuzzled my neck. I felt his cold, absurdly firm flesh against my throat. Occasionally I would feel the sickening squish of his decaying muscles as he moved his head. I didn’t mind, but whenever I felt the empty socket I couldn’t help but shudder. I wondered how long it took until it rotted out. Or did it fall out? What about the chord thing that held it in? If the eyeball fell out, dangling there, swinging about his face when he walked, knocking into his nose all the time, did he just get fed up with it and yank it out? He stopped nuzzling and returned to staring ahead as we walked.
We passed a mutilated corpse. I think it was a woman. The muscles on her arms had been ripped off the bones, dangling haphazardly. Her guts had been torn out, some lay on the concrete. Her face was gone completely. The huge red splatter on the cement wall suggested she shot herself. Then the smear down to where she remained, her smashed head hung morosely in her slump. Harvard covered my eyes and rushed me away from the sight. What a sweetheart.
I’m not a necrophiliac or anything, but right then I fell in love with Harvard just a little.
From behind I heard a soft groan. Harvard and I turned to see. The woman was getting up. She hadn’t shot herself it seems. Maybe she shot herself while she was being eaten. That won’t do, you know. If you get bitten while you are still alive, it’s too late. Even if you shoot yourself right after that bite. Killing yourself like that only speeds up the process. She was gross. Her face looked like an open sore. In her chest was a gaping hole. What an idiot. If you want to prevent anything, you shoot yourself in the head. Durr. But she hadn’t. And she could feel my lump of warm in the sea of cold. She approached us, her arms flopping around as she tried to move them. Sorry, lady, no muscles. Her left arm fell off. Her steps were jerky and awkward as she was missing huge chunks. She tripped on her dragging intestine, something I found funny and gross at the same time. Harvard jumped in front of me. I reached into my purse.
I grabbed Harvard’s head and pushed him out of the way, whipping out my .44 ACP. I fired a shot into the woman’s head, making it explode and spatter the wall once more. She dropped to the ground absurdly fast. I let go of Harvard's head as I replaced my gun into my purse. He looked at me, his one eye widened in shock. He made a gun shape with his hand, turning it sideways. He was imitating my shooting style.
‘Too much like a movie?’ I asked shudderingly. Shooting always makes me shake. He nodded. Slowly, he took my hand again. We went back to walking. ‘So where are we going, Harvard?’ I asked. He shrugged. I heard a bone crunch as he did. That’s one of the more tragic things about ondoden, they decay, but at random. Each little failing of their body is a surprise to them; as could be seen in the quick spasm under Harvard’s left eye in a quiet panic.
I moved the fingers of my left and slowly inside my coat pocket to keep them from getting too stiff. I gave Harvard's hand a light squeeze for attention. He looked at me nervously, still getting over his now dodgy shoulder.
“Where should we go, buddy? Yours or mine?” I asked. He looked up, thinking. After a pause, he patted his chest. “Yours, huh?” I confirmed. He nodded. I made a noise of agreement. “Mm.”





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readaholic This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 29, 2011 at 7:05 pm
This is really good!  The begining gets you interested, and the ending is very satisfying.  This is a very good piece of work.  You have a right to be proud of it!
 
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