Friday, August 19, 2011

Bagging Some Zs by Katherine Tomlinson

Ike Hackett had been unemployed for two years before signing on with the county as a Z-catcher. The work wasn’t hard but it was dangerous and most of Ike’s colleagues had been as desperate for an income as he was. The hazard pay was generous but the life expectancy of a Z-catcher was only slightly longer than patients with stage IV pancreatic cancer.
At first, Ike had been shit-scared every minute of every shift. His training officer was so careless about following protocol that Ike was convinced he was trying to get himself killed and Ike along with him.
Ironically, his training officer did have stage IV pancreatic cancer and was hoping to die on the job so his wife would inherit a fat insurance payout.
He got his wish but Ike barely escaped without being bitten.
After Brian’s death, Ike was assigned a new partner, Randy.
Things were better after that.
Ike admired Randy. He never asked Ike to do something he wouldn’t do and there was nothing he couldn’t do better.
He taught Ike the best way of checking the zombie traps on their route and the safest way to deliver them to the euthanasia centers (known as the House of Zzzs because it was where they put the Zees to sleep).
The delivery was the most dangerous part of the job. Zees weren’t smart but they could sure as hell smell the stench coming from the crematorium at the back of the facility. They knew that nothing good happened there.
Randy was a popular guy and the alpha of a group of catchers who called themselves Z-Dawgs.
Once he teamed up with Randy, Ike became an honorary member of the Z-Dawgs and started hanging out with them on their time off.
It was Randy who introduced him to the Zee Fights. One of the Z-Dawgs had built a holding pen in his basement and after hours and on weekends, the guys would get together to hold Zee Fights, death matches between undead contenders fought in a backyard sand pit.
Ike had seen the videos on YouTube but nothing prepared him for the thrill of the real thing. It was the bloodiest of blood sports and best of all—unlike fighting dogs or fighting cocks—you couldn’t kill a fighting Zee just by wounding him or her.
Even the winning zombies were only good for a couple of fights though, because after that, the minute they started fighting, limbs started falling off and they just stood there as their opponents chopped them up like the Black Knight in the old Monty Python routine.
So there was always a need for fresh meat, so to speak. No one could build up a stable of fighters to gain an advantage.
On the other hand, some of the Zees were natural-born fighters, and not the ones you might think.
A lot of the former athletes were crap in the pit, for instance. Ex-military were often pussies. Given his druthers, Ike always bet on the housewives. The zombiefied soccer moms were fierce competitors, ferocious and wily.
Ike found that playing recordings of a distressed baby’s cry was all he needed to do to get their blood up before a match. It was too bad you couldn’t breed the Zees to fight, to pass those competitive genes on.
The fights brought in big money.
You had to know somebody who knew somebody to get invited to them, but word got out and the crowds grew.   
The Z-Dawgs shared out the profits even-steven and they were all rolling in cash.
Ike invited his brother Mitch to a fight and he was so upset Ike had to talk him out of calling the police.
Randy wasn’t too happy about that.
Randy was big on rules and he had a whole series of protocols they were supposed to follow when they were alone with their fighters before and after matches. No one wanted the gravy train to come to a screeching halt, so the Z-Dawgs followed his rules.
But accidents happen.
It was absolutely not his fault that Ike got bitten by a victorious Zee who had been a gym teacher in her former life. She’d come lurching out of the pit and thrown her arms around him. Ike was so surprised by the human moment that he stood there a second too long—long enough for her to bite half his cheek away.
Randy shot her in the head and then turned the shotgun on Ike.
Ike had grabbed the gun out of Randy’s hand and used it like a baseball bat to lay his friend out.
Well, ex-friend.
Zees don’t have friends and Ike was a Zee-to-be now.
He knew Randy would be coming for him.
He knew he should just turn himself in at a sleep center.
But before that, he was going to get himself a good meal.
Mitch looked like he’d be some good eating.
BIO: Katherine Tomlinson used to be a reporter but prefers to make things up. Her zombie story “Z-Cruise” will appear in the Hersham Horror anthology Alt-Dead this fall. Her story “A Dream of Blood and Fire” will be published by Trestle Press as part of Paul Brazill’s Drunk on the Moon anthology. She writes the serial novel NoHo Noir for the local news site


  1. Leave it to Katherine to put the cop/reporter view on a Zombie Apocalypse. Problem solving on the fly: improvised and catch-as-catch-can, freestyle grab ass or whatever other part of the body is handy and ready for separation. (Police Academy rule 101 on dealing with "situations"). And that's just for the combatants in the tale. Us readers have to physically control ourselves at the onslaught of just plain funny as hell stuff she throws at you like a one liner mortar. I mean Soccer Mom undead kicking ass in a pit fight? Not to mention a gym teacher who can only be Sue Sylvester from Glee munching on a cheek bone ice cream cone? I gotta stop before dire, wet, circunstances occur in my nether regions. Phew! And, cool!

  2. Wow, that is crazy creative and very funny.