Patient Zero

by Stacy Neuberger-von Hoffman


There are some things that people just keep to themselves, secrets that never get told, and thoughts never shared. One doesn’t blurt out to their husband or wife that they are boffing their secretary or their pool boy. One also doesn’t tell their best friend that they have the ugliest baby ever seen on the planet, that in fact it is so ugly it should be in the Guinness Book of World Records. One should also make sure to compliment their mothers’ cooking, their wife’s clothing choices, or their boyfriends’ love for pizza, beer and football. That was the problem Baxter was facing right now, should he keep hiding the truth, or should he start telling people his secret?

Truth was Baxter was a zombie. He didn’t know how to tell people that he was one of the undead, especially since he was not the cool kind of undead. Plus, Baxter wasn’t a soulless monster, and he didn’t really want to be murdered because of what he had become. The idea that once he told people they would want to kill him made him a little uneasy, and he got this odd quivering feeling in the pit of his stomach, or the area of his body that used to be his stomach. Now he wasn’t sure what it contained, especially since he was unable to eat and feel sated.

Baxter believed that life would be better if he were a vampire rather than a zombie, even a werewolf would be a better supernatural being. For some reason vampires were cool, sexy; however, he was one of those people who didn’t understand the cult that the pale, blood-sucking undead had formed. Why would anyone want to be immortal and have a taste for sucking iron-tasting blood? The only problem he saw with being a werewolf was the excessive hairiness. Of course, it hadn’t been his choice, so he guessed that he couldn’t be too picky about which type of creature he was to be.

Death was the natural process of things. If he wasn’t so scared he would welcome death. He knew there had to be a reason he had become a zombie rather than a corpse, he just had to figure out what that reason was. The answer might never come. Quite possibly he had become a zombie because of his own mystical karma.

As far as he knew, Baxter was the only human zombie living. He might even be what the movies referred to as “patient zero.” Since he was the only one of his kind he knew he had to be extra careful. There were people out there, medical and government agencies, who would want to experiment on him, test him, find out why he was a zombie, and find out how much of a danger he was to others. In all honesty, he wasn’t a danger—at least not since he had become a zombie. Baxter believed that you were what you ate, and eating people would make him a cannibal.

Of course, before he became a zombie he had a nasty habit of raping and murdering prostitutes, although he didn’t consider it a horrible thing, just a thing that might have gotten him into trouble with his girlfriend, or the police, if he had been caught. He was sure his girlfriend wouldn’t have approved of him hacking a naked woman to bits and then throwing the dismembered corpse into the river, even though it was a family legacy. His father had been a Bible-thumping, whore murderer as well. Baxter was just following in his father’s footsteps. Except for Baxter, the electric chair was not an option. The problem, in this case, was if he hadn’t been a hooker-murdering businessman, he might never have become a zombie.

During one of his late night slash fests he was bitten by a cat. He should have been paying better attention to his surroundings. That night he was tired and just wanted to get through the bone and be done with it, so he could go home and have sex with his plain Jane girlfriend, whose name was actually Jane. Baxter was sure she would be waiting at his apartment, with some organic wine and organic berries in a vegan negligee. He tired of her clinginess and at times wished that he could kill her. She was weak, lived in a rent-controlled apartment, and liked to dine in.

Instead he was bitten on the right forearm by a scraggly orange tabby cat with one eye and a collar that jingled. The cat didn’t wear a nametag; Baxter guessed that at one point it did. Its name was probably something stupid like Twinkie, Buster, or Chuck Norris. Swearing, he turned to kill the cat, but it was gone, apparently it had not taken a liking to the taste of Baxter’s forearm and didn’t need a second taste. So he finished what he was doing, took care of the debris, cleaned himself up and went home. Having become a professional in the arena of murder, the clean-up only took him fifteen minutes. Killing in the nude had become habit, so there wasn’t much else to do besides push the body parts into the river. He was of course happy that the cat had not bitten him on his unprotected penis. Who would have guessed that there was a cat zombie roaming the world?

It wasn’t until two days later that he thought something was wrong. Antibiotic cream burned. In fact his arm had become swollen, also there was a weird, sickly smell that emanated from the wound. He was never a man with a tan, in fact his pale skin regularly seemed to reflect light, but he did seem paler than usual. Even his best friend and office mate, Toby, noticed. Toby commented on it one day, four days after he had been bitten.

“Man, Bax, you need to get out more in the daylight. You are so pale someone might mistake you for the StayPuft Marshmallow Man.” One of Toby’s favorite movies was Ghostbusters. He really loved watching the scenes with Sigourney Weaver, which was the reason he also like the Alien movies (even Alien Resurrection which was a horrible movie, but Sigourney Weaver was wet, so she was sexy).

Baxter had laughed it off, making a joke about Sigourney Weaver’s tits to distract Toby, but he wondered. He also worried and when he realized what had happened he began to use precautions. Formaldehyde became a staple of his daily skin care routine.

Baxter was forced to take two weeks off of work, the last three days of which he didn’t remember. When he woke up on the last day, he was covered in blood and there were several rat carcasses around his body. Apparently, while he slept the rats had decided he might taste like garbage, a favorite among the rat population, so they came in and nibbled on his feet. Thankfully they only got stuffing while they nibbled on his brown slippers. He wished they hadn’t come at all. The rats didn’t seem to bother him while he was sleeping, and from the looks of it he had gotten the best of them. There were easily fifteen dead rats, or at least the pieces of them, strewn about his pale green and yellow bedroom. Now his bedroom looked a little more like Christmas with the blood on the walls, carpet, and his body.

Jane had wanted to come over and bring him soup, or something to make him feel better. She wasn’t much of a cook and had gotten on a vegan kick, which was annoying since he was a rare steak and fries man. He didn’t care for miso soup, or tofu, or raw vegetables, or any of the other crap she brought by. So he told her no, don’t come over, and ignored the hurt and whiney voice on the other end of the line. Jane was beginning to bore him. She was too vanilla in her tastes, wanting to watch chick flicks and cry on his shoulder. Jane even begged to stick with the missionary position when they had sex. Baxter had begun to think about dumping her, yet it was so hard to find a simple, easy to maintain girlfriend.

Now, when he saw his pale face in the bathroom mirror he could see it all, could see what he had become, could see what he really was. He didn’t know how long he could hide the fact that he was a zombie. Baxter had to remember to breathe; if he didn’t breathe people would know what he was. A hard part was that he had to remember to eat, even though all the food he ate tasted like burnt hamburger. What he would have given for a bloody raw steak, or the raw flesh of something delicious, more savory than bloody rat. He had to remember to comb his receding blay (brown, blonde and gray) hair gently every day, so it didn’t all just fall out of his dead head. There was probably no possibility that hair grew back on zombie scalps.

When he walked into the office each day he knew he probably looked worse and worse. He would have stayed home, or quit, but he didn’t want people to figure out his secret, plus he needed the money.

His skin was becoming sallow, he looked as if he hadn’t slept in days, or even weeks, but he could pass off his more than unfortunate looks because he had just been out sick for a couple of weeks. However, just by the glimpses he had caught of himself in the urine-tainted men’s room he knew he wouldn’t be able continue blaming his mysterious illness for the way he looked. Baxter was surprised every day he walked into the office that no one noticed the slightly sweet smell that was beginning to emanate from his body. He knew from research that the smell was a beginning sign of decomposition, and he wasn’t sure how long he could keep himself together, literally.

“Hey, Mr. Kingsley, there is a meeting at ten in the main conference room. Mr. Derrwitaker wants to see you there,” said Ashley, the reception secretary.

She was always smiling her goofy bright smile. For some reason she thought that getting braces at the age of thirty was a good idea and might help her land a man. It was pretty silly of her to think that. A man wouldn’t want to kiss a mouth full of metal, unless he had a fetish for young schoolgirls. Maybe that was her hook, maybe she caught men by putting her hair in pigtails and offering them a little rub and tug. Ashley had tried to seduce him once. Jane had just become his serious girlfriend, so he had been forced to say no thank you. Maybe he should bite Ashley, make her his sexy zombie slave.

The smells that used to get him when he walked into the office weren’t as pleasant since he became a zombie. He used to love the smell of the freshly made coffee, the doughnuts from the mom and pop bakery down the street, the mix of perfumes that the ladies all wore. It was an intoxicating mix. The integration of smells made him want to eat and have anonymous sex all at once. Not a bad thing, sometimes he went home and masturbated to the remembrance of that mix of smells. Now he rarely masturbated. He was afraid that his penis would just fall off. Now the smells just made him want to vomit. The aromas that he liked more were the fragrant odors of the ladies—their skin, the blood pulsating through their bodies, and for some reason their heads smelled the best, a mix of sickly sweet shampoo and a butcher shop.

Baxter knew that today, almost a month after his transformation, was going to be another long day in acquisitions. It was a good thing that there were all these giant brains around here pretending to work. Meetings were the worst, always Mr. Derrwitaker talking, talking, talking, and nothing coming from it. Everyone knew big, fat Mr. Derrwitaker just liked to hear the sound of his own voice echo throughout the conference room, which was why he usually chose the main conference room to hold these meetings in; it was large and had pretty good acoustics.

When Baxter got to the room, four of the seven people were there already, he made five. Mr. Derrwitaker would arrive late, as per his usual routine. Hunger ached in Baxter’s newly transformed and forever-empty stomach. It often felt as if his stomach was eating itself. He knew that wasn’t possible, he assumed it was just the way things were when one became a zombie. What Baxter really wished was that he had found that cat instead of finishing with that stupid, heroin addicted hooker. She hadn’t even known who the sixteenth president was. Who didn’t know who the sixteenth president was?

When everyone finally arrived the hunger was overwhelming. While they were passing around the pink frosted doughnuts and the bear claws he was looking at each employees’ head wondering how hard it was to bite through bone (although he knew it was hard to cut through).

Reaching across the table for a bottle of water he instead grabbed the arm of his cubicle neighbor, Jeffery Darling, and took a toothy chunk out of his forearm.

“Son of a…” Jeffery screamed, grabbing his arm. “What the hell, Baxter?” Standing quickly, Jeffery grabbed his arm and watched as the blood flowed through his baby blue dress shirt, and pooled on the maroon carpet. That wouldn’t be too hard to hide later, blood mixed well with the color maroon.

“Hungry,” Baxter mumbled, blood dribbling down his hairless pale chin.

Screams echoed out in the hall as Jeffery stumbled out of the room holding his bleeding arm close to his chest. Girls screamed like girls, boys screamed like girls and everyone ran towards the room to find out what had happened.

Jeffery was quickly infected and almost immediately became a new species of zombie. Then it began.

Jeffery bit into Sally, the mail girl who just happened to be passing by, and she bit into Mark, her secret mail room lover who she liked to screw while sitting on the office mail in the mail cart. Mark bit Julie who he had wanted to bite for a long time but thought she was too beautiful with her large fake breasts, big blond hair, and bright blue eyes. Julie bit Anthony, her pool boy, when she got home—which is where she raced after being bitten by Mark. And Anthony, well he unfortunately bit his wife Alice and six-year-old daughter, Alyssa. Things just went downhill from there. Alyssa, being a child, was oooed and awwwed over and every person she came in contact with she bit. In fact she survived for three months, until Officer David Brennen found her—half her beautiful brown face missing, her left eye dangling out of its eye socket by a ligament. Everyone she ate wanted to help her, save her. Officer Brennen just shot her in the head and then shot her again, knowing that this was what you were supposed to do when you were going to kill a zombie.

Of course Baxter still knew how to survive, and his minor feeling of guilt at having started this whole zombie uprising thing, helped keep him hidden. He stayed low, didn’t go out if he didn’t have to, let his meals come to him, which they always did when stupid survivors were looking for a place to lay their weary heads. Baxter had moved three times since he had created the first zombie in Jeffery. After Jeffery he had eaten Toby because of all the stupid Sigourney Weaver comments he had been forced to listen to over the twenty years they had worked together. After finishing Toby he ran out of the building, screaming, “There is so much blood! Oh god, somebody help us!”

Currently Baxter lived in a nice three bedroom, two and one-half bathroom house. Formerly occupied by the Morris family, he had assumed control of the house after he had killed and eaten Mary, the mother, Steve, the father, and Seth, the teenage son.

Teenagers were especially meaty. The fat content in their bodies was almost as fresh as a chunky little babies’. Baxter couldn’t bring himself to eat a baby, and actually didn’t like the idea that he had been forced to become a cannibal. When he felt bad about eating a person he reminded himself again that you are what you eat and he was human so why not eat humans.

The good thing was that he realized he wasn’t the only zombie anymore; in fact he was the king of zombies. A god among zombies, the zombie maker, and he was sure that he could destroy both the humans and the zombies if he needed to.

Hearing a noise Baxter stood, wondering who would be coming in during the night, since everyone else had come in during the day, when they could open the forest green blinds and see the vast living room in the radiance of the sun. Tilting his head to the right, he was startled when his neck popped and wondered if it was a regular creak or if he had just snapped his neck by tilting it too hard.

Baxter heard a very audible click, and knew exactly what it was. There was nowhere for him to go, so he closed his eyes and waited. The blast wasn’t as loud as he thought it would be. Unfortunately a side effect of being dead was that his ears had also been dead for a few months now so they had lost some of their usefulness. His head ached as the birdshot exploded his face, he felt just a memory of pain, not actual pain. Falling to his knees he tried to smile, teeth fell from his mouth and tinkled on the floor, they sounded like the bells of a cat’s collar, the bell of that cat’s collar.

Looking up he saw the face of the person who had finally killed him, and he wanted to laugh. It was his girlfriend, Jane. Sweet Jane, the pathetic woman who would never hurt a fly, or an ant, or a spider. Boring Jane, who he had been planning to dump, and who he was thinking about possibly finding and eating. Plain Jane, now a beauty reflected in his cold dead eyes.

Patient Zero fell into a bloodless heap. Now a cure would never be found.

Let the zombie revolution begin.