Man’s Best Friend, Zombie’s Worst Enemy Part 60

Experimental Treatment Allows Five Zombieism-afflicted Humans to Live Normal Lives

Sable Engineering revealed today that it has developed an effective treatment for Zombie Lyme disease. All five subjects in the one week study showed near complete reduction of symptoms. Motor control and speech have returned to near full capacity, and the opportunistic mold colonies have reduced in size by up to seventy percent. At the current rate of progress, recipients of the cure are expected to be able to resume normal lives within a month. According to Sable Engineering CEO Keith Sable III, his daughter Julia Sable, along with Ted Barton, Sandra Baker, Penelope Dearth, and Michaela Cruz are five examples that prove that Sable Engineering is on the cusp of taking us into the post-zombie era.

“I was hopeless,” says Barton. “I literally had mold growing on my face like a crazy red beard. I shambled around like some kind of moron. I could barely talk. But now I feel like a human again!”

Theodore Stowe leapt from his computer chair and bolted up the stairs. “Ethan! Ethan!” he shouted. “Ethan, they have a cure!” He struggled to keep the tears out of his eyes as he threw the door open. Ethan groaned like the living dead as his dad opened all the shades and blinds. “You’re going to sign up for the cure right now, boy.”

Ethan groaned again, and Ted grew stern. “No ifs, ands, or buts, boy. This is the real deal. Your mother is going to be so happy.”

Ted threw the covers off his gray child with blue-specked hair, and Ethan curled up more. “No.”

Ted’s patience was gone. “This isn’t up for discussion.”

“Read–me—” Ethan gasped, straining to produce the words  “the–whole– thing.”

Ted read it through. The results thus far had been astounding. All symptoms cured except for a small residual smell. Anyone near Sable Engineering main campus in Forsythe County could come and be part of the initial study.

“No,” Ethan interrupted. “Main– stream– media– controlled–”

Conspiracy theory seemed to be the only thing Ted’s poor son could bring himself to put into words these days. Ted interrupted him. “My sweet boy. pardon me for saying, but it seems to me like you have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Have you considered what it could mean if this is not the product of a vast, carefully orchestrated hoax?”

Ethan groaned and pulled another blanket over his head.

Behind her little house, Stacy threw a stick, and two dogs coolly observed its arc through the sky down to the patchy grass. Blas could run, but didn’t enjoy it, and Princess no longer strove for anything. She passively accepted petting and stroking. She did not roll over for belly rubs. She did not snuggle. She ignored Blas’s ministrations until he finally stopped offering them. A small blessing, her lackadaisical nature was such that even Marco’s bad dog Ignacio lost interest. Meaning had left Princess’s life, and Stacy tried to live with it. There was no need for self-recrimination over a dog she could not help. All she could do was keep her comfortable.

A text came on her cell. 

Mr. Stowe: Stacy, Ethan is refusing to get the cure.

I could have told you that. What do you want me to do about it? Stacy didn’t answer. At supper she ate with her parents and got another text.

Mr. Stowe: Can you do anything to help? Maybe convince him?

Stacy ignored it again. She went to bed, Blas crawling under the covers and stretching his three legs out next to her, and Princess with her head in the corner. In the morning she checked her phone and saw a third message.

Mr. Stowe: I’m so sorry to lay this on you, Stacy. He really connected with you. Maybe he’d listen.

He didn’t listen. He almost bit me. Stacy curled her right hand into a fist, uneven for the missing last joint on her pinky. Never again.

The texts stopped coming. Stacy took Princess for walks, gave her food, stroked her fur, she and the dog both going through the motions. Sometimes Blas would look at them, and she could swear she saw pity in his eyes. Was there really nothing she could do?

Curse that Mr. Stowe. This isn’t your problem, Stacy. You’ve done enough.

Despite the news of the cure, school policy had not advanced.  Julia, as a carrier of zombie lyme, was not allowed on campus, so the journalism club was just Stacy, Joshua, and Daniel. As days wore on, the club had taken a morose, grey tone like that of Princess. Except when he gave announcements or taught class, Mr. Gobi no longer left his office. The look in his eye when she did see him reminded her of Princess, and she became angry all over again. Why do I have to solve everyone’s problems? How is this my fault?

Mr. Gobi was the man who helped people with zombieism. He said so himself in sidelong ways that avoided suspicion. He helped Julia, he tried to help Ethan, but then he stopped. Why did he stop?

She knocked on his door one day. No answer. She let herself in. Mr. Gobi sat at his desk, one hand on his malamute Cody’s head, staring at The Romero Star on his computer screen. Not the most recent entry, but last week’s. Romero In Discussions to Welcome Cured Students Back to Classes.

“May I speak with you, Mr. Gobi?” Stacy asked. He gestured to the chair before his desk.

“It’s about Ethan.”

Mr. Gobi said nothing. He scrolled up and down on the news article.

“He’s refusing the cure. He’s obsessed with conspiracies and he just hates Sable.”

Mr. Gobi shook his head. He mumbled something, and Stacy had to lean in, “it’s his business whether he gets the cure.”

Stacy shook her head, “No! He needs help! He won’t listen to his dad or to me. This is what you do, right?” She tried to remember what Mr. Gobi said. “Ethan needs an ally.”

Mr. Gobi turned to Stacy for the first time. “Some people are beyond saving.”

“What?” Stacy blurted. They’d had this conversation before. “Not Ethan. People make mistakes. You have to forgive them and – “

Mr. Gobi slouched in his chair and turned back to the news article. “Two months, seven days.” 


“That’s how much longer Angie needed to survive for the cure to be released. Two months and seven days.” 

“You can’t blame Ethan for that.”

Mr. Gobi shook his head. Stacy’s dad never cried in front of her, and she fought a feeling of deep discomfort to watch tears begin to roll down Mr. Gobi’s cheeks. ”Mr. Gobi, please,” she said lamely.

He shook his head. “You’re right, Stacy, I can’t blame him. I can’t forgive him, either.”

Guilt, discomfort, shame, fear, all welled within Stacy, and she felt her own face grow hot. Don’t cry. Stacy forced her voice to be even.“You don’t have to do either, Mr. Gobi.”

He waited for her to finish her thought. Stacy didn’t know if she wanted to. She took a deep breath and put her hand on Blas’s head. It might be the end of the most important mentor relationship she had ever had, but it was the right thing to do. Stacy told the most honest, caring, self-sacrificing man she knew the truth. “Princess and Ethan weren’t there the day your daughter died.”

At that, his high forehead creased. His eyes widened and he turned his chair to face her. “What are you saying?”

Stacy felt like she would be sick. She raised the nub of her right pinky. “That was the day I lost my knuckle.”

Mr. Gobi’s face fell, and as he looked between her and Blas, she knew something had broken that would never be repaired. She watched the aftermath of flipping his world upside down on his face. The broken pieces of his life rattled around his brain, slicing open old wounds and brand new ones alike. Finally, he whispered. So quiet that Stacy had to lean in to hear. “Why did you lie to me, Stacy?”

She could tell the story about her father, the deal she struck to be allowed to publish at all, but it didn’t matter. Mr. Gobi would have been safe to tell the secret. She knew in her heart he would have. “I didn’t want you to…,” her voice cracked “…to look at me the way you are now.”

Mr. Gobi’s mouth worked silently. A couple times he jerked as if he would put a fatherly hand on her shoulder, but he didn’t. A choked voice escaped him. “Thank you for telling me. You did the right thing.”

Then he turned away. Not to his computer, but to the wall, staring at nothing, just like Princess. Stacy stood to let herself out. At the door, she heard Mr. Gobi speak once more.

“Is Ethan’s dog still around?”

Stacy looked back and saw Mr. Gobi’s bald spot, a round ring of hair around a brown shining stretch of skin. “Yes,” she said.

Keeping his eyes forward, he muttered, “I may be able to help him.”

“Thank you,” said Stacy, and she took Blas out to her car. She shut all the windows, turned up the music to full volume, and cried like a baby. 

By Sam Munk

Science fiction and Fantasy author with a focus on philosophical inquiry and character-driven drama.

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