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Anti-dead

      “I’m dying!” yelled Evan, his sore throat making his voice crack from the strain. There was no one in the house to hear him, but he shouted anyway. “I’m gonna die!” He wasn’t going to die. At least he didn’t think so, but this was his second time contracting measles so he was a rarity. His mother had insisted that because he had survived his first bout with the disease that it was impossible for him to get it again. Even now, when he was lying flat out on the sofa, aching, itchy, and feverish she had refused to admit that he had measles.

     “It must be some other bug,” she had said that morning “Make sure you drink lots.”

     “That’s not going to help Mom.”

 

     “Don’t be silly, you’ve had measles and you can’t get it twice.”

 

     “Well maybe if I got vaccinated-” his mother had gasped in horror, hand clutched to her chest.

    

     “Evan, you know what those things do to you.” Stop me from feeling like shit, he had thought to himself. But there was absolutely no arguing with the woman.

 

     So, there he lay, attempting to sleep despite the ache deep in his bones. He groaned again, stiffening when an answering groan came from the street. Pushing himself up he peered between the gap in the gauzy net curtains.

     “Fuck,” he breathed as a shambling figure came into view. “Fuck, fuck, fuck!” The man was wearing an ill-fitting suit ripped at the seams. His grey skin sagged at the cheeks and he had black, sunken eyes. Now he’s definitely dead, thought Evan.

     He winced as he eased himself slowly to his feet, legs protesting with each movement. The phone was in the hallway, Evan shuffled toward it just as slowly as the dead man outside. The groaning grew louder.

     “I know, I know, you want to devour my flesh.” He pulled the landline toward him and began dialing the emergency number.

     “Undead hotline what’s your emergency?” said an absurdly cheerful woman on the other end of the line.

     

     “Um…yeah. There’s a zombie outside my house.” Evan shook his head in disgust at the hoarseness of his voice.

 

     “Okay, sir where do you live?”

     “Er…” There was a thud as the zombie threw its hand against the window making Evan glance nervously toward the street.

 

     “Sir?”

 

     “Yeah sorry…” He gave the woman his address, told her that yes, he was home alone and the doors were indeed locked.

 

     “Well okay, a disposal team will be there in about fifteen minutes.” She hung up before he could say anything else. He crept back into the sitting room and sank to the floor rubbing at his swollen eyes. For most, a zombie wouldn’t have been a problem. Even a bite wasn’t a big deal anymore, but only if you were vaccinated.

     The response to the sudden reanimation of the dead in 2051 had been surprisingly fast. The military stamped out any group of zombies threatening to organise themselves into a hoard. Shooting them gleefully and with much applause. Any and all epidemiologists worth their salt dropped what they were doing to create a vaccine as fast as possible. And, somehow, they had managed it. Evan remembered the day the tiny vials had been delivered to the local surgery. It was funny to think that a tiny bottle of clear liquid would save them from the jaws of the undead. He had sprinted down the stairs and had eagerly asked his mom when they would be going to get the vaccine.

     “They say it’s a vaccine,” said his mom in disgust “But what it really is, is a bottle of chemicals.”

     “Well yeah…” he’d replied “But isn’t everything?”

     “Don’t be smart with me.”

     “But-” She held up a hand to cut him off.

     “I am not putting poison in your body, trust me it’s for the best,” she had patted his head and told him to go play in the garden. At fifteen he wasn’t inclined to follow through, but his mother had treated him the same way since he was seven. The following day every single one of his friends had trooped off to get the injection, and he had sat and watched. Now, a year later, no one but Evan had to worry about zombie bites.

     A bang made Evan yelp like a startled puppy. The blurred silhouette of the zombie was pressed against the window, letting loose an eerie moan. Evan flipped him off. He could just make out sirens in the distance. The high, whining, blare made the dead dumbass stumble toward it in hopes of a tasty, if rather loud, snack.

     “That’s right,” said Evan peering over the sofa “Go and see the nice people with the guns.” The sound of sirens grew so loud that Evan had to clamp his hands over his ears, scrunching his face up in pain. He barely heard the shot or the heavy thud that followed. The siren cut off followed by a mumble of voices and the sound of a body being dragged down the street. Evan crawled up to the window and stuck a hand through the net curtains. The van was just out of sight but he gave a thumbs up anyway, hoping they would see.

     “Your welcome!” shouted a deep voice. A screech of wheels and the zombie was gone. Seconds later Evan was back on the sofa in exactly the same spot he had been in before. Muscles shaking with the recent effort, his skin burned. Once more he raised his voice, “I’m dying!”

***

     “So, there was a zombie outside the house today.” His mother gasped, dropping the salad hands she was using on her special measles curing salad.

     “Oh my God sweetie, are you okay?”

     “Yeah, it’s not like I let him in or anything.” She pursed her lips and started tossing salad again.

 

     “They shouldn’t let those things roam around, they’re a threat.”

     “Well they don’t. They turned up shot it and carried it away. It took like twenty minutes.” He pushed his plate weakly toward her but his mother had once again been distracted.

     “They shot it in the street? In front of you?!” She bustled around the table and swept Evan into her arms. She was unafraid of his rashes, firmly believing that her combination of salad and lots of water would keep her safe. Little did she know that her father had gotten her vaccinated as a child. She clutched him tight, making his head pound.

     “Oh Evan. I can’t believe you had to see that.” She swayed back and forth, stroking his hair as he glowered. “I’m going to make a complaint,” she said “Zombies and guns out on the street in the middle of the day! This is supposed to be a safe part of town!” Pulling away Evan rubbed his aching head.

     “How else are they supposed to deal with them? I think I would be far more traumatised if they’d beaten its head in with a spanner.”

     “Don’t talk that way,” said his mother walking back to her salad. She lifted some onto his plate nearly burying his tiny portion of fish. “You shouldn’t have to worry about things like that.”

      He stared at her mouth slightly agape. Sometimes his mother astounded him with her stupidity. He loved her, she was his mother after all, but by God was she an idiot sometimes. Anger was welling up inside him, bubbling and steaming like molten rock.

     “Thanks to you I have to worry about these things,” he snapped. The colour drained from her face; her jaw tensed.

 

     “What is that supposed to mean?” He gulped. This was too far, he knew it, but now he had no choice but to argue the point. He stammered unintelligibly for a moment. “Well?” she demanded.

     “You decided not to get me vaccinated,” he said in a rush.

     “For good reason,” she said “Those things aren’t the lifesavers they’re supposed to be.”

     “Yes, they are! That’s the whole point of them!”

     “Evan,” her tone dropped dangerously low “There is a clear link between the use of vaccines and the rising number of children suffering with autism-” Evan made a frustrated sound.

     “For the millionth time they are not suffering!  And the vaccines aren’t the cause of it!”

      “It’s brain damage Evan of course they are suffering.” He nearly screamed at her words.

      “It’s not brain damage, you…you.” His mother cut him off with a hand.

      “I will not discuss this with a child.”

     “I’m sixteen!”

 

     “Go to your room.” She pulled his plate away from him, eyes downcast. He threw his cutlery down and stormed off. There seemed to be a roaring in his ears, blood boiling under his skin. He wanted to break things, scream, he wanted to tear and shred and bite like those things outside. Sometimes he hated that woman, with her stupid belief that she was somehow superior because she was white, cis, straight, and neurotypical. That somehow, she knew better than hundreds of scientists all telling her the same thing. He slammed the door of his bedroom so hard he felt the vibration through the floor.

     “FUCK!” He yelled.

His room had dull off-white walls and an even duller brown carpet. Clothes hung off chairs, the wardrobe doors, the bed posts, bringing some colour to the boring minimalism his mother had tried to force on him. As a tiny act of rebellion he had started drawing along the skirting boards underneath his bed. A long winding mural of flowers, animals, trees, and dancing figures. Evan knew that if she found it, it would be scrubbed away before he could protest.

He paced the room, too full of bristling energy to sit still. It was all too much, something needed doing. But he was sixteen, what could he do?

As if in answer there was a loud buzzing noise from his desk. His phone screen had lit up, a text message visible on the screen. Evan made a grasping motion with his hand. The phone caught the motion and moved the display from his phone to his smart watch. He looked down to see a text from his friend Caleb, a scrawny, bespectacled boy that lived down the road.

      Hey! You feelin better?

Evan took a deep, steadying breath, and sat down on the edge of his bed to answer. The watch would translate his spoken words into text. Caleb refused to do anything but manually type his messages and the spelling errors made Evan snort in amusement.

     “Yeah, I’m all right. Mom’s pissing me off.”

     Yeah?

     “There was a zom outside today.”

     Oh really?

     O shit! Your not vacinated u okay?

     “Yeah, it’s fine, it got dealt with. Tried to tell mom I want the vaccine but she just shut me down. I can’t deal with this.”

      Aw dude that sucks

     But I actually have some new for you

     *news

     “Oh?”

     Check it out

      The next message contained an attachment. It took Evan to a news website, a page featuring an article about a school two towns over. He gasped. The article covered the growing infamy of the local high school. They were offering free zombie vaccinations to its students without parental permission. A massive controversy had sprung up around it. Parents on both sides arguing about the welfare of their children who were flocking to the nurse faster than the vaccine could get there.

     Cool Right?

     “Oh my God…”

     They got the right idea

     “Wish I was there.”

     Well why not?

    

     Evan frowned.

 

     “What do you mean?”

     Get the vaccine from them

 

     You dont need her permission to get it

     “In case you haven’t realised I don’t go to that school Caleb.”

     So pretend

     Evan bit his lip. The plan was already forming. Jump on a bus, get to the school, blend in with the crowd, and he would be vaccinated by the end of the day. He could do it. Even if he got caught afterward, it would be done and dusted.

Look I gotta go dude but think about it okay?

     His watch went dark.  It was a smart plan, a good plan, he could pull it off. His mother clattered about downstairs. She would never have to know, even if she did find out, tough shit, he would already be immune to those ugly dead monsters.

He snatched up his phone and began typing furiously. At that moment the ache, the itch, and the fever caught back up to him. With a groan he sank back onto his covers closing his eyes as his head touched the pillow.

    

     As soon as he recovered, he would be out of here. Once again, he saw the dead man behind his eyelids. The ruined suit, the rotting, sagging skin, those empty eyes. A shiver ran though him. He never wanted to end up like that, an empty shell of a person. Somehow his mother didn’t understand that, even though she could end up like that too. The dead man became dead mom. Torn blouse, gaping mouth, manicure still miraculously intact. Maybe he could swipe an extra one for her. Inject her while she was sleeping. Or maybe he could go full villain and tie her to a chair, cackling manically as he jabbed her.

 

     The images he’d created began to blur and jump. He tried to force them straight but they slipped through his grasp. Next minute he was asleep, dreaming of zombies biting arms, legs, shoulders, while he stood, smiling, and immune.

***

There was a problem with the plan. Evan’s measles had finally faded two days later but he was still itchy here and there. He had messaged Caleb, telling him exactly what he was going to do. Then it all fell apart.

     Dude did you see whats going on with the buses?

     “No, why?”

     You’ve got a problem.

     There all canceled. Some unvaccinated dude got on a bus and turned.

     “Shit.”

     Yeah I now

     *know

 

     “So, what happened?”

 

     Well he started biting right? And that was okay cause most people on th bus had the shot but there was a kid, not old enogh for the injection

     “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

     It all went south from there so the buses got stopped. So unless you want to walk

    

      “All right.”

 

      Wait what?

 

     “I’m going to walk. I’ve had enough of these goddamn dead people ruining my life!”

 

     But those things could be lurking anywhere. What if you get bit?

 

     “I better get there fast then, hadn’t I?”

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