It was more boarded-up doors over the hill. Patches of sundried blood along footpaths; abandoned cars with broken windshields as far as he could see; and so many corpses it was impossible to count them. Same shit, different day.
Our hero had done reconnaissance hundreds of times by then, so familiar with the routine that he mostly spent days like this on autopilot, daydreaming about the social dynamics and courtship habits of penguins. He’d been a zoologist in his past life, which proved to be an unexpected advantage in the shitstorm of a world that he now found himself in.
Zombies functioned in herds possessing of many characteristics similar to penguins, it turned out. Or maybe they didn’t, but the parallel had to this point been useful enough to outsmart them. Imagine a really, really dumb penguin, he’d tell new recruits, before giving them several lectures that were perhaps unnecessary in their zoological and etymological depth.
After two years of continuous camp growth and education, the local war could fairly and accurately be called, The Zombies vs. The Penguin Experts, which, in spite of how much it testified to his good leadership, our hero was fairly nonplussed about. As far as he was concerned, he simply had a job to do.
With numbers now surpassing two thousand, he was satisfied he’d done his part, and was finally able to start thinking ahead. About time he started looking for The One, he decided. And, so, he began laying out the obstacles to overcome before finding her.
First, his hygiene. He hadn’t groomed or showered in a year. In his journal he wrote: Step 1: Have shower, trim beard. Next, his attire. He hadn’t changed his clothes, ever. In fact, not for several years prior to the apocalypse. Step 2: Loot an Abercrombie and Fitch store. Lastly, his braces. Two years they’d been in by then. Step 3: Find a dentist, pref. with expertise in orthodontics.
The first two had been easy enough, even if the passing commentaries on his new appearance were less than stellar. And so it was down to finding a dentist, which is why he was out that bright and sunny morning, walking through a typically grizzly scene, without any underpants on. His mother had taught him to never wear underpants to the dentist – advice that, unbeknownst to him, had been another product of the voluntary lobotomy she’d had.
He looked down at the half-eaten body of a cyclist spread across the pavement. One thing he’d never been able to figure out, no matter the amount of penguin logic he applied, was how in the hell there were so many zombies if their MO was to eat people. That a small number would be infected by a bite or two and turn zombie relatively able-bodied didn’t account for how many there were, seeing as most victims ended up like the poor sod that was in front of him. Not to mention, the more there were, the more they functioned in packs – the less chance of getting away without being eaten beyond recognition. Apocalypses were a conspiracy, he decided.
Movement ahead. He pulled out the microphone and flipped the switch of the speaker at his hip. “This is Supreme Director Captain Ace Dangerfield, I mean you no harm,” he said, semi-aroused at an opportunity to use his full title. The original crew had elected to give themselves honorary rankings when their base numbers passed a certain point, though the replacing of birth names had been optional.
Gun raised, Ace slowly approached the whatever it was that he’d seen. Around the corner it was more bodies, scatterings of crusty viscera and broken glass, a lone shoe. Probably just a dog, he thought.
“Have you any food to spare?” said a voice, suddenly. He looked in the doorway to his right, and there she was. In denim shorts and a ripped tank top, glistening with sweat, curls of shining brown hair cascading over suntanned shoulders, was the most beautiful woman he’d ever laid eyes on.
“Not on me, sorry, but plenty back at base camp,” he said.
She rushed into his arms. “You have no idea how long I’ve waited for this moment,” she gushed, almost weeping. “My husband was taken months ago and I’ve been living off canned spaghetti, sleeping in a box. Even the zoology books that I’ve kept have done nothing to curb the hunger for human touch that I have. I desire so much to be held again.”
“Sounds unfortunate,” said Ace. “Say, you wouldn’t happen to be a dentist, by any chance?”
“A dentist? No, not a dentist sorry. A zoology professor actually, once a Victoria’s Secret model as well, before, you know, all this happened.”
“That’s a shame,” he said, disappointed. “Anyway, base camp is that way. Ask for Max Strongbow, he’ll give you the supplies you’re after.” He released her, practically pushing her away. She walked off with her head down, visibly crestfallen. After a few paces she glanced over her shoulder to see Ace headed the opposite direction, strolling without a care.
Ah yes, the park. Ace loved walking through the park. The corpses there were more at home, for some reason. Death seemed to rest better in nature. Maybe that’s why his ex-mother-in-law had liked camping so much, he wondered. He began whistling. The only tune he knew was the Imperial March from Star Wars, which was probably more fitting in this environment than it’d been that one time as a pallbearer.
Movement in the bushes. Speaker on; greeting given. No response. Do these scavengers think it’s a zombie using this thing? He repeated his intent to offer assistance, and walked closer. A few metres away now. Still nothing. Then: “Lower your gun please.” The voice was female, sounding tentative.
“Okay, gun’s lowered,” he said with assurance. A few moments later, out stepped a woman in a light summer dress, her long and athletic legs of a smoothness he’d never seen before, the face of an Egyptian goddess baring the most knee-buckling smile that he’d seen via any medium, let alone in person. She was so beautiful that the grass around her bare feet began to flower.
She looked at him lustfully. “Wow, you’re much more handsome than I expected,” she said, walking towards him. But before she could satisfy her urge to be held in his arms, Ace stopped her with his hand.
“Pardon me, but are you a dentist?”