Thursday, March 14, 2013

THE NEW ECOLOGY OF DEATH (excerpt within an excerpt)

This is the last excerpt from THE NEW ECOLOGY OF DEATH that I'll be publishing for a while.

In this one, I deal with something that I've thought about before. In most zombie novels and zombie films, no one has ever heard of the humans mindlessly rising from the dead to eat the living. That's why, I always figured, the pandemic spreads so quickly. It's not something the ignorant can deal with.

However, if my new novel, George A. Romero exists, as do his films, and many other zombie films and books. So what the government does is bring Romero in and interrogate him. They don't waterboard him, but I did consider putting that in the manuscript.

Here then, are several characters (government and health department officials) discussing the day George A. Romero was hauled in for questioning. (And, yes, I have a rough script outline for that scene.)

Every zombie novelist is George A. Romero's mutant child.

By James Robert Smith.

“We’re encountering the infected again.” Raines said.

Fear clutched as Cotter’s gut. Another outbreak would be…problematic. The government knew now how to handle such a thing, but the measures to control it again would be very harsh indeed. He didn’t like to even think about it happening again. Survival wasn’t the issue, but freedom was.

“Infected?” It came out as a whisper and his fear betrayed him. “Where is it happening?”

“No, no. Gosh, no, Davis.” The eruption of reassuring words from Rajh was almost comical. It was meant to placate him and dampen his fear, but that would have to wait for more information, more facts, something he could interpret as clinically as he did numbers and stats.

“Not an outbreak?”

“No. When I say that we’re encountering the infected I am referring to some of the people who died and were never accounted for. The missing walkers. The zombies,” he added. 

“Hell, I swear to God I hate that term. Zombies.” He seemed to spit it out.

Raines smiled then. “You know I was there when they brought in that director after the infection had gotten out of control and no one had quite figured out to get a handle on the situation.” He laughed. A good, healthy laugh. This did more to contain and dampen the tension in the room than had Patel’s clumsy attempt.

“I…uh…I heard about that.” A smile clawed its way up from the realm of nerves to Cotter’s face. “Romero, right?”

“Yeah. George A. Romero.” Raines’ gaze seemed to drift as he remembered. “Nice guy. Someone in the chain of command got the bright idea to find him and haul his ass in for questioning. The guy seemed almost to expect it, which made some people even more suspicious of him.” He cleared his throat. “Goddamn. It’s a good thing I was there. Someone with a sense of humor in that room.

“Hell! They were ready to throw his ass in Gitmo and hook electrodes to his balls to get answers.”

Heard that, too” Davis said. “Of course only rumors.”

“He had a good sense of humor about it,” the Colonel said. “That’s what he meant when he said he’d expected to get hauled in. I mean…hell…he made movies about this shit decades before it actually happened. And those damned movies were so close to what was really going down that…well, of course there were people who were suspicious. He even made some jokes about being water boarded and I didn't have the heart to mention to him that it had been discussed.” 

Suddenly, and for no real reason beyond the sense of paranoia that sometimes had gripped him since the early days of the infection, Davis was suspicious. The Colonel had lulled him into a comfortable place and he would have to be careful not to say something that might get him into trouble with the brass. His life had been made exceptionally comfortable by his labor and the work ethic he devoted to it. For all he knew, they were probing him for weakness. He had always been suspicious of the kind of man who could make you laugh too easily.

“What did he have to say about the situation? Did he have any worthwhile insights? You never know where one can find useful information,” Dr. Patel said. He was genuine in his comments.

“No. It really was all just a crazy series of happenstance. He said the whole thing was a variation on a theme by another writer and it was just weird synchronicity.” Raines seemed to examine a spot on Cotter’s bare desk, his gaze piercing it to another time and another place. He chuckled, coming out of his near-trance. “He asked us if we were going to haul in any other horror movie directors and we told him he was the only one.” The man cleared his throat. “But I lied. Those crazy bastards upstairs did haul in a couple more of those fellows. That son of Mel Brooks who wrote that zombie novel best seller. But I didn’t get to debrief him. After Romero no one took that shit seriously.

“It was just a coincidence. For real.” And then his piercing gaze returned and he was all serious Defense Intelligence again. “Okay, Patel. Fill him in.” His eyes flicked from Rajh to Davis.

Patel leaned in, his forearms resting on Cotter’s desk. Most people asked him why his desktop was so clean and free of the debris of business, but so far that topic had been left out of the conversation. The Pakistani’s face was passive and there was nothing of the level of stress that Davis felt coursing through his own emotional state. “We’ve had some interesting things come up lately, Davis. Nothing huge. Just what have been some minor anomalies.”

“You mean anomalies when compared to my statistics and graphs.” He smiled lightly for both men, as if to let them know he was not concerned. But he was.

“Not per se,” Raines let him know. “But some things you’ll have to consider now that we can provide you with some real numbers.”

“Real numbers? I take it that this has to do with something that has been going on for a while?”

Patel sat back, removing his arms from Cotter’s desk and crossing them in his lap. He was wearing a pale gray suit and not his usual lab smock. For some reason, Davis had not noticed that Patel was in his civilian clothes, and for the first time he gave him a hard look. The man had obviously been going to the lab that morning, as usual. There were always specimen to examine and patients to see, even now, two years on when the plague had been placed well and under control. But here he was in civilian clothes instead of a lab smock.

“Yes, we noticed some things happening over the past couple of months.”

“New infections. You guys are talking about new infections.” Please, not that. Here it was again. Were they leading him on just to break the news to him gently. He had other sets of statistics and graphs that he had shown to no one. These graphs showed a precipitous and statistically solid chance that the human population of the planet would fall into the low millions if another pandemic of the infection hit them.

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