What if the zombie apocalypse, but in the era of accelerating privatization? Speculative fiction writer Tobias S. Bucknell gives a whole new meaning to ‘zombie capitalism’, to savage result. Enjoy. –the ed
The dogs started barking at the zombie in the pool long before Sheryl figured out what Zim and Garfield got the scent of. Zim, the German Shepherd, crashed through the picture window to scrabble out after it.
Sheryl yelled at the dogs to get back in the house as Garfield took off to join Zim at the chain fence around the pool.
Then she heard the zombie splashing about in the shallow end of the pool. It snarled when it saw her, and she couldn’t quite stifle a small scream as she realized a rotting corpse had pulled itself through a hole in the pool fence. It had trailed blood and innards all across the decorative brick path, then collapsed in a cloud of black ichor into the crystal clear blue water.
Sheryl ran back inside and got the Remington Seven from the rack by the door, loading it and working the bolt by feel as she jogged to the back of the house. By the time she returned to the pool the zombie flailed around in one of the corners, not able to pull itself out of the pool. A long, black tangle of intestines looped around the pool cleaner had tied it up.
“Jesus Christ.” Sheryl grabbed Zim. “Damn it dog, you stay here.”
She managed to get Zim’s collar, but Garfield had scrabbled off counter-clockwise around the fence to wiggle through the damn hole. He arrowed into the pool along the zombie gut trail like the damn beagle scenthound he was.
Garfield ran around to snarl at the zombie as Sheryl got Zim’s leash on him, clipped him to the fence, and then ran over to the gate.
“Garfield, get over here!”
She fumbled with the padlock for a second. Garfield shrieked as the zombie got clawed, bony fingers into him.
Sheryl kicked the gate open and fired at the zombie. A chunk of shoulder blew away. She swore and worked the bolt again.
The second shot blew the zombie’s head apart, bits of brain raining down into the pool. Sheryl pulled Garfield out of the water, carried him to the pickup, and got him into the passenger seat.
“Hilldale Vet Clinic,” she shouted into her phone.
She was halfway to the vet before she realized she’d left Zim clipped to the fence, and called Kathy next door.
“No worries,” Kathy said. “I’ll send Jaden over, he can plywood up the window and take Zim in.”
“I thought,” said Cory from the vet’s curved desk and two sleek computers, “that the National Guard had swept the town. What was the point of all those checkpoints around town? Fucking zombies.”
Somewhere in the back, Sheryl thought, Garfield lay on a table under anesthesia. And that young vet from Chicago that didn’t look like she could legally order a weak beer, or even drive a car, was trying to save him.
“Zombies, huh?” Cory said again.
Sheryl pulled her head out of her bloody hands she realized he was talking to her. “What?”
“National Guard isn’t doing a good job of keeping up,” Cory said.
“They left,” Sheryl said. She took a deep breath and blew her nose.
“They left? When’d they leave?” Cory looked horrified.
“It was on Channel Five,” Sheryl said. “You didn’t see it?”
“I’ve been working extra shifts,” Cory said. “Trying to get ahead on my payments for steel shutters.”
Sheryl had been seeing more and more of those go up. Bars on windows as well. She didn’t like the look. The HOA kept sending out letters pointing out that it violated the community guidelines, but they just kept popping up.
Zombies trumped HOA rules.
“UTD won against the government.” The judge on the case ruled that getting the military involved unfairly influenced the market. Ultra Tactical Dynamics, a company built just to provide zombie and zombie home defense produces, would lose all its business if the National Guard defeated the zombie hordes. And that was anti-capitalist and un-American.
Second amendment rights trumped governmental anti-zombie actions.
“These are fundamental American rights,” a blonde spokeswoman wearing aviator sunglasses told reporters at a press conference on the steps of the court, as Sheryl watched the news and chopped onions and carrots for a stew the previous night.
News reporters noted that the CDC wasn’t allowed to track zombie populations starting next week, and conservative senators had advanced a bill to prevent funding for a cure.
“You should buy UTD stock,” Zachariah told Sheryl at BreadWorx the next day. “The dividend is growing, and the stock is flying high after the decision.”
He’d been their financial advisor for three years now. Dale liked him. Zachariah was a high school buddy who came back to town after college with a business degree to take over his dad’s business selling insurance and retirement.
Dale couldn’t make the appointment, told Sheryl she needed to go. What she really wanted to do was stay home and grieve Garfield.
Damn, she’d loved that dog.
Fucking Dale. He was probably off drinking at lunch. Sheryl hated meeting Zachariah on her own. He never took his eyes off her chest. She’d insisted on meeting him for lunch somewhere public to avoid the claustrophobic feeling of doing this in his office.
“They stopped the plague in France,” Sheryl said, ripping off a piece of sourdough bread and dipping it in the potato soup. “What happens when this is all over?”
“We don’t need a whole socialist intervention,” Zachariah scoffed. “Got enough firepower right here for us regular folk to stop the horde. I saw Andy take out one of them in the hardware parking lot. Bang, right between the eyes. People got out of their cars to clap.”
Some of the boys were talking about building blinds out in the woods around town to sit and hunt zombies with their rifles.
Zachariah had a whole prospectus for Cheryl to look over. A glossy brochure full of charts that showed zombie outbreak growth, personal defense sales, and featured UTD’s unique ‘prep parties’ sales system that set up individuals as distributors to sell defense projects on down the line. Like Tupperware parties, but for lawn spikes, shutters, guns, and bitching swords.
Dale loved going to town UTD parties.
“Listen, you see these videos online?” Zachariah asked.
He pulled out his phone and showed her a clip of a three men in full camo gear on ATVs, all of them wearing night vision goggles.
“Watch this,” one of them giggled, and tossed a stick of dynamite out into the dark. When it exploded, dark gore and body parts rained out of the night and everyone laughed.
Local government all over the country lifted limits on what hunters could use on zombies. YouTube was chock full of men filming themselves firing on zombies with all the arms they’d been hoarding since the NRA first started posting about the government coming to take their weapons.
“Okay, look, if you don’t want to invest in UTD, how about something a little more exotic?” Zachariah leaned in and tapped the UTD brochures.
Cheryl sighed. “What’s that?”
“You remember Randy?”
Zachariah nodded. “He’s starting a safari experience for the city folk. You come out, do a few practice rounds on a shooting range, and then they load you into a open-topped bus with a wire cage and run you out into the countryside and you take potshots from the comfort of a vehicle.”
Fifty thousand seed capital to help him get two vehicles with chopped tops.
Who knows how much they’d make?
“It’s zombie capitalism,” Zachariah said with a big grin. “And business is good.”
“I’d have to talk to Dale,” Cheryl said. She could barely focus, her eyes were watering every few seconds and Zachariah was too focused on talking investing at her to notice that she’d been dabbing at her runny nose the whole time.
“He’s good for it,” Zachariah pushed. “He used to run the same business doing feral hog hunting. Same idea. You could hunt them with just about anything because they were spreading too quickly all over the country. We used to go out machine-gunning the things on weekends. Most legal fun you could ever have.”
It looked like so much fun, but the bottom fell out because people started importing feral hogs up to other areas where hunters were all excited to start the process all over again.
And then soon you had feral hogs ripping through farms like a horde of locusts. They’d breed like rabbits. Local authorities would lift hunting restrictions. People would film themselves hunting with machine guns, and then the whole thing would repeat.
“Zachariah, I really have to get going,” Cheryl said. “I have things to do still today.”
According to the radio, stocks were up. Lots of companies building new things to deal with the zombie apocalypse. Construction was up. Walls, moats, shatterproof windows, heavy doors. The hardware stores were doing well. Everyone was taking out second mortgages or maxing out their credit cards.
The economy was humming along because everything had to change for the new reality.
CEOs reported that things had never been better. The NASDAQ at new highs. S&P 500 hitting new records.
A shambling corpse stepped onto the road. Cheryl screamed and swerved. Never swerve, she thought, her car insurance agent told her that. Just hit it dead on and keep moving. Call the 1-800 number on the back when you got home.
Do not park the car in the garage, leave it at the end of the driveway.
Dale always mocked her fuel-efficient hybrid. Maybe he was right, maybe she needed a big pickup that could climb over a zombie and keep going.
The edge of their two acres needed spikes. And Cheryl needed Dale to dig a moat. She’d called about the steel shutters, but they were back ordered three weeks.
Funny, the magazines Dale had all featured heavy weaponry. But nothing about ditch-digging and defensive features.
Cheryl dug a hole near the Japanese maple at the property marker. Garfield’s favorite spot. He’d sit there and watch the road, waiting for them to come along the curve, then race his way out to the driveway to pace the car up to the garage.
She wept as she returned to the car and pulled the still form out from the trunk. Garfield’s body sagged in her arms as she walked out over to the grave and slid him in.
“You deserved better,” she said to her dog.
The zombies came through two weeks later. They wore brand new camo, and many of them had vests with the logo for Randy’s new zombie sightseeing company on them.
“Figures,” Cheryl muttered as she looked out her non-shuttered windows at the undead running across her lawn, ripping up the daisies and boxwoods. “DALE!”
Zim started barking up a storm downstairs. Dale shouted at the dog. Then the dog shrieked and Dale ran up the stairs, eyes wide.
“Safe,” he gasped.
She kept a shotgun by the bed, always at the ready, since Garfield died. Cheryl aimed it down the stairs and fired.
Dale came back with a smile and an AR-15.
Together they stood on the landing and gunned the creatures lurching up the stairs at them apart, one by one, until the walls dripped with gore, the banister fell over, and the stairs creaked with the weight of the dead.
When it was all over, Cheryl sat in the ruination of her carefully remodeled kitchen.
“We fucking crushed it,” Dale shouted, getting himself a bottle of bourbon and stepping over a corpse.
Cheryl shook her head. “Dale, I’m tired of this.”
Why did it have to be so hard? Why couldn’t they all work together? Why did everything have to be extracted? Lobbied for? Why was she sitting here surrounded by all these bodies, her dogs dead, when there had been perfectly good soldiers surrounding the town earlier?
Dale wouldn’t get it. He’d just won. And where was Cheryl going to go? Fucking Europe? She was an American. Her family was here. Her friends were here, her community was here.
Cheryl sighed and grabbed a mop. Tonight she’d clean. Tomorrow, she’d talk to the bank about a zombie disaster relief loan so they could start rebuilding the house, even though they were already up to their eyeballs in debt.
Maybe it was time to buy a little UTD stock.