Authors: Michael John Grist
Tags: #Zombie Apocalypse
A ZOMBIE NOVEL
Michael John Grist
The last man alive fights the zombie apocalypse.
When the zombie apocalypse hits America, not a soul is left alive.
Except Amo. He's a comic book artist. He's a video game world-builder. He's mayor of his local coffee shop in New York.
He will survive.
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For SY, as always.
1 – MAYOR
One day and two nights before the zombie apocalypse kills every person I ever knew, I become mayor of Sir Clowdesley.
Sir Clowdesley is a cozy little independent coffee shop in the Flatiron district of Manhattan, on 23
street and 2
Avenue, decked out with soothing shades of teal and raw wood shelving. I come here every day to make storyboards, drink decaf lattes, and perpetuate the routines that have kept me alive this long. Now I've become mayor, which is dangerously exciting.
I lean back from my laptop in the mezzanine area of the shop, called the 'library' for all the donated books lining the walls, and watch the little twinkling Jeo badge revolving on my phone's screen.
I feel flush with pride. Baby steps they said, when I was finally released from the hospital. This feels like a baby victory.
I survey the low bustle of hipsters I have come to rule, spread out on mismatching vintage sofas and benches. They wear skinny jeans and neck beards and plaited ponytails, all clutching phones like the sawn-off hilts of swords in a war. I suppose I look much like them, a 28-year old artist with dreams of becoming relevant, though I'm now their leader.
I sip my decaf latte and shuffle through the Jeo option screens. It seems Sir Clowdesley have made a few mayor's rewards available, so I can bestow such favors as free coffee, reserved seating, and double-speed Wi-Fi upon whomever I please.
I don't know anyone here though. I've avoided the Clowdesley chat room so far, to keep the headaches at bay.
Who wants a free coffee? I have five to give away. Make your case.
I type and send the message, geo-locked to the Clowdesley coordinates. Across the room I hear a few low chimes jingle as my decree arrives. The first answer comes within moments.
I'm pregnant. Baby needs caffeine.
I reward this bold soul with a cup of decaf. I watch out for someone to rise, a pregnant lady perhaps, but MichelleGondry42 doesn't seem to want to claim his/her prize just yet. No problem, I slap a sixty-second countdown on it to flush them out.
A skinny guy by the window springs up out of his bucket leather seat and hurries over to the counter, holding up his phone like the Olympic torch. I get a kick out of that.
God wants me for his messiah. Coffee will fuel his second coming. His wrath will rain down on the unjust.
Double espresso. I do the timer again and now a portly girl in skinny black jeans makes her dash to the counter. This is probably too much fun.
"So you're the new mayor, huh?"
I look to the side.
It's the gorgeous auburn-skinned waitress, standing there looking down at my phone. Immediately my heart starts to race. She's some kind of coffee-nut blend as rich as hazelnut cream, Afro-Caribbean with a French touch to her eyes, with these lovely dark ringlets of hair that circle down her cheeks. I've noticed her many times. I've been coming here every day for months.
"We haven't had one for a while," she goes on. "The spec is set pretty high."
I put the phone down and smile, belying the terror I'm feeling. "It's the culmination of all my plans."
She snorts. "You are in here a lot. It would probably be me, for all the shifts I do, but they don't let staff on Jeo."
I shrug. "I'll bring it up with a committee."
She laughs. Her eye-whites are truly sparklingly white. "So what are you doing here every day, writing a novel?"
I follow her eye-line to my laptop computer on the table, open on a page full of text.
"Ah, yeah," I say, "it's not a novel, actually. It's storyboards for a graphic novel. I make them here then I do the art at home."
Her eyes light up a shade brighter. "Really? I'm into comics. What's it about?"
My smile goes wry. "Zombies."
"Ha. That’s cool. Do they run?"
I laugh, then rein it in. This is the closest I’ve come to flirting since the incident, and my head is already starting to twinge with the pressure. "They do. Do you want to see some panels?"
"Panels is like pages? Sure."
I lean to the laptop, swizzing the word processor screen away and bringing up my latest work. I full-screen it and angle the display so she can better see.
Her jaw drops a little. This and mayor makes it a great day.
"You are kidding me?"
I go all bashful. "No, it's mine. It's the penultimate panel, actually, I'm brainstorming what to do with the last one."
She leans over my shoulder and studies the screen closer. It's a view of the city from high up, around the 30
floor of the Chrysler building, but everything is destructed fitting the post-apocalypse; all cracks and weeds and toppled skyscrapers with leathery corpses strung on telephone wires.
The zombies are there too, but they're heaped in the middle at the Times Square intersection, in a tower of contorting limbs reaching up many stories high. They look a bit like they did in World War Z, climbing up to pull down a helicopter, but in my image they're climbing toward nothing we can see.
Drawing it laid me up in bed for a day. I could barely move for migraine-twinges and thinking I was going to die. It's worth it though.
"This is amazing. But what's going on?" Her breath touches my neck as she leans closer. My pulse starts to race. Not good, really, but I can't run slam the laptop and run off now. "What are they trying to get at?"
I swallow down my dry throat and spit out words. "That's the question. At this point all the humans are dead, so it's just zombies left. You'd think they'd roam around mindlessly with no brains left, but in fact they stack up like this. I'm not sure if I should give the reason for it in the last panel, or sort of leave it open."
She leans back. "OK, like a mystery. So do you know what they’re climbing for?"
"Yeah. It's not aliens or anything. They're not climbing up to the mother ship."
She chuckles. I should probably stop this now while I'm ahead. I don't.
"I'll show you if you like," I say. "I'll be here tomorrow. I come in here most days."
There's a bashful quiet. Of course I've seen her before, for the past five months, but I had no notion if I’d registered on her radar. We never talked, and really I'm not supposed to be talking to her now. It could kill me. I should just shut up.
"Dinner," I say instead. It comes into my head and I say it. "I'll show you at dinner tomorrow night. There's a great modern French spot nearby, they do logarithmic art on the walls and they have a cat that sings for its supper. My treat. I'll show you the panel. You render judgment."
Her left eyebrow raises a fraction. "A date? I approached you, though, it's true. I suppose I was asking for this."
"I'm the one asking. I think it'll be fun."
She laughs. "Points for opportunism, then. And for being the mayor. What if I say I have a boyfriend?"
"Then you'll have to buy the comic yourself. No free peeks at the last page."
She laughs again, and her bright eyes narrow, appraising me. "Well, you seem OK. No scurvy, rickets, nothing like that. It's a deal. Give me your phone."
I hand it over solemnly. She taps on it deftly then hands it back. "I'm not in here tomorrow, but we can have dinner. The cat better sing. I want good logarithms."
"Only the best."
She raises the eyebrow a little higher. I'm not entirely sure I know what a logarithm is, so I hope she won't ask. I saw it on a flyer.
"Lara," she says. "That's my name."
"Amo. It means love in Latin. My parents were hippies."
"Amo the mayor, OK. I'll see you."
She turns and goes. There are other people's novels to check on, probably, and my constituents to serve. Also they profit-share here, there's a career path and everything, which has got to be motivating. Next month Lara could be the manager, next year the world.
Ah shit. My heart is racing. This plus mayor is probably too much excitement for me to take. I sincerely hope I don't fall into a coma and die.
A year ago I fell into a coma and died.
It lasted for two weeks, and in fact I died many times, with my heart stopping and all brain function fading. Many times they somehow brought me back. I don't remember any of it. No one knows why. When I woke up it wasn't because of anything the doctors did. The fit or infection or whatever it was had just passed. It left me with a severely weakened heart, and a severely weakened mind.
I read somewhere that people who go obese will always be more likely to become obese again, because their body built extra fat cells the first time around, and these start filling up immediately as soon as there's too much food in their belly. They stretched their body like a balloon when they first got fat, and now it's slack and easy to re-inflate.
"Is it like that?" I asked the doctor, after explaining my theory. He was a serious Indian man with bright red glasses, which I found galling. Who wears bright red glasses when they go to see a man coming out of a coma? It's not a catwalk, man.