Jonathan Coulton “Re: Your Brains”
 Dire Straits “Walk of Life”
Braiiins!!! Only kidding, don’t get your bloomers in a twist. I’m not a zombie. Last time I checked I still had a pulse, my flesh doesn’t appear to be rotting, and I’ve just prepared myself an Alfresco salad so there’s no reason to load up the 12 bore…yet. Alas, I can confirm that I may have taken a bite from somebody who may well have been past their prime and that could result in me turning into one of the walking dead at some point during the foreseeable but, touch wood, I’m not feeling any ill-effects at this point. Ten years ago, switching to zombified status would have been most inappropriate as the outbreak hadn’t been initiated back then. However, nowadays even the harmless beaver has become infected, and being a shuffler has become rather in-vogue.
Well it appears as though we have a few minutes at our disposal so allow me to fill you in on how this came about in the first place. I was running precariously low on smokes, and there were ten minutes remaining until my local convenience store lowered its shutters for the night, so I decided it best to stock up before matters were taken out of my hands. It’s a six-minute stroll from point A to B and I knew that my goal was achievable but it was gonna be tight. Thus I decided on speedwalking. I’ve always found this pastime vaguely ridiculous if I’m honest, sure it may get you to where you want to be in record time, but you look like a bag of dicks doing so. Thankfully, three minutes of my expedition time would be spent navigating a poorly lit alleyway, and there would be more chance of getting mugged and beaten to within an inch of my sorry life than becoming the butt of any onlooker’s cruel jibes so I was thankful for the anonymity this jaunt would provide.
Thank the mighty Allah for the getaway sticks. I arrived at my destination in four minutes thirty. Granted, my heart felt fit to burst within its infrastructure, and I was left wheezing like Big Momma on a treadmill by the time I had reached my coordinates, but I had made it and this afforded me ample time to peruse the vendor’s wares before he shut up shop for the day. It was all going well until I counted the loose change in my pocket. I had seven English pounds in my possession and cigarettes would set me back by six of those, which left a whole quid to bargain with. In such situations, you are left with a choice. I could purchase a pack of three feather dusters from the homeware aisle and spend the remainder of my evening sprucing up my tool shed, grab a packet of throat lozenges for the rattly chest I had received after speedwalking the 4.5 minute mile, or head for confectionary. In the history of no-brainers, this was the least-brained yet.
It had to be chocolate. Housekeeping would be a laborious chore and my straining lungs would soon shape up once I took a gentle stroll back and drank in the night air, whereas there is never a bad time for candy. I may have made up my mind in record time but my plight was still far from over. How many of you have stood gormlessly before the sweet counter attempting to ascertain which bar of chocolate looks the most appealing? Was I feeling nougat? Maybe a smattering of fruit and nuts would hit the spot? Then there’s fondant, and I love me some fondant center. With so many choices before me, I was left perched between a rock and a hard place and, all the while, the clock was ticking and I could hear the store owner tapping his fake Rolex disapprovingly all the while. Eventually, after considering the annoyance of endeavoring to dislodge a macadamia from between my incisors and given the fact that dense nougat would likely clog up my arteries even more, I stumped on fondant. The silly thing was that the writing had been on the wall from the very start of my pensive selection process. I always end up with fondant but the fun is in the journey we make to get to such a realization.
I may have enjoyed stroking my chin but I was still mindful of the poor guy waiting to get home after a long thankless day in the trenches. He looked far less than happy with me for taking my sweet time and emoted such through way of lowly eyebrow placement and a look of disdain I hadn’t been made privy to since I accidentally walked in on my older sister taking a dump as she was hovering with knees knocking, attempting to go for that all-important second wipe from front to back. Thankfully, an embittered shopkeeper has nothing on a woman scorned, thus all I received was the glare. Nevertheless this made any resulting transaction somewhat discomforting and things were only about to grow more ominous. I apologized for my tardiness and he muttered something under his breath, before retrieving my Lucky Strikes and commencing to do the math. A few seconds felt akin to an hour in a hyperbolic time chamber and this painfully protracted moment needed to be punctuated in some way to lift the tension. When I chose to make a dash of small talk, just to harry things along some, I was taken aback by how vocal my opposite number actually was.
“Is it? I beg to differ son”
“Have you not heard?”
“About the zombie outbreak”
“No. I haven’t actually. Not a big one for watching the news. I find it so depressing. Twenty minutes of listening to the woes of others, capped off with a story about a paragliding hamster just to encourage your return for the next set of headlines. No thanks. Hold up…did you say zombie outbreak?”
“Affirmative. It’s all over the news. Apparently nobody has the faintest idea how it came about but the casualties are massive and the government are considering Def Con 5”
“What about the other four?”
“Exactly. It’s a real mess”
“Can I ask why you’re still open for business, while the nation prepares to press the panic button”
“Overtime. I’m on time and a half tonight”
“I applaud your commitment but I think that maybe I should be going”
“Wait up will you? Let me lock up and you can walk with me to my car. Not taking any chances”
It seemed like a fair trade to me. In exchange for watching me procrastinate for three full minutes, before asking him to break a twenty when he was clearly running low on coinage, it felt like the right thing to do.
“Sure. Why not? Safety in numbers right? Where are you parked?”
“Three blocks away”
“Oh. In which direction?”
“Southwest from here. On Roseblush Avenue in the library car park”
Holy hell horses with shit saddles, that was in precisely the opposite direction that I would be prepared to travel. This would mean doubling my journey time and, all the while, the outbreak would only be intensifying. All this for a dash of nicotine and some admittedly velvety fondant. Hardly seemed worth all the hoo hah. However, I couldn’t simply stand by and watch as another made such a treacherous journey without a wingman. Besides, I was sure he would have no objection to offering to drop me home for my troubles.
“I’ll do it. Don’t suppose I could trouble you for a lift back once we get there could I?”
“Sorry pal. Barely have enough fuel to get home myself. You’ll have to wing it I’m afraid”
What a bastard. I instantly rued being the Samaritan but, facts were facts, I had agreed to his terms before learning of his intention not to remunerate me for my selfless act. I was beginning to rue not plumping on the throat lozenges after all, especially given that I had effectively doubled my transit time. Fuck speedwalking, with flesh-eating zombies potentially lying in wake around every shadowy corner, I would be required to bust out a brisk jog. I struggle to make it upstairs without thorough hyperventilation so this was about to offer a stern test. I would be required to bank on adrenaline seeing me safely through my ominous pilgrimage. But I still didn’t relish the jaunt.
“All done. Shall we?”
“I suppose so yes. Ready as I’ll ever be”
“Tell you what. As you’ve been such a sport, grab yourself another fondant bar as my way of showing my appreciation”
Having already selected peppermint cream, I stumped on orange second time out, just to mix things up a little.
“You can drop the money in tomorrow”
“Oh! Of course. Tomorrow”
“If I’m not here, just post it through the letterbox in an envelope”
I was really off this guy fast. Nevertheless, a deal is a deal, and I consider myself a man of my word, so I nodded sheepishly and joined him at the front fascia, clutching my smokes and confectionary for dear life.
“I really appreciate this you know. Hadn’t been looking forward to making this trip solo”
“Don’t mention it and I won’t mention that one good turn warrants another”
He was oblivious to any sardonism on my part, either that, or he turned a deaf ear intentionally.
“So. Tell me a little about yourself then. You frequent the store on at least a bi-daily basis and it just occurred to me that I don’t know the first thing about you. What’s your name buddy?”
“Well most people know me as…”
“Hold that thought. Did I activate the security system back there? Can’t recall”
Yes he did. I know as much as I watched that miserly muppet as he tapped in each digit. 7-4-1-8. I fully intended on snatching myself a handful of fondant on my way back for services rendered.
“Uh huh. You’re all good”
“Phew. What would I do without my chaperone? So, you were telling me your name”
“You know what really irks my chain?”
“What irks your chain?”
“Litter. Look at it. Do you think it would be any great hardship for folk to use the applicable bins liberally placed on each street corner? It sickens me”
“Yes. Litter. Grr”
“You’re alright, you know that? Now where were we? That’s right, you were about to tell me your name”
“Never mind that. We have an unsavory at twelve o’clock. Potentially one of those blasted zombies. Keep on your toes son. He’s looking a little peaky”
For the uninitiated amongst us, allow me to elaborate on the meaning of the word peaky. Ordinarily this would suggest that a person is pale from illness or fatigue, nothing a good ten-minute time out or throat lozenge wouldn’t fix. The shambling cadaver edging ever closer was far more than simply a tad off-color. I’m not entirely sure what provided my first hunch. Perhaps it was the rotten flesh dripping from his face or the hunk of freshly procured meat that he was tucking into as he meandered towards me ominously.
“Whatever you do, don’t give him eye contact just in case he is one”
Just in case? Just in-fucking-case? What more proof would be required to ram the point home that this was, indeed, a member of the undead? Worse still, it was me that was in receipt of this walker’s longing gaze. Maybe he had picked up on my perspiration after my speedwalking exercise. Perhaps my epidermis was just the more enticing. I instantly regretted moisturizing my skin and gulped as the shuffler prepared to pass.
I really should have learned to trust my gut in situations such as these as, true to form and one opportunist lunge later, I was left clutching a freshly formed cavity in my forearm. It smarted like all concentrated hell and left me feeling both nauseous and soundly mortified. This was no flesh wound we were speaking of; the zombie in question wasn’t content with a mere taster and instead sank his gums around my wristwatch as he dislodged a fair old share of my monkey spanker. I’d seen more than enough movies devoting themselves to showcasing the rise of the undead to be in possession of all the facts. Once bitten, forever decomposition. Them’s the brakes once you become entrée for one such groaning rambler. I’d had it. A state of FUBAR had been facilitated and my life, as I knew it, was all but over. Now would have been the ideal time for a little sympathy from my travel companion.
“Help me stop the bleeding will you? Take off your shirt and wrap it around the wound tight. We’re gonna need to apply pressure to slow the process long enough to sever the arm”
“No can do I’m afraid. This is Yves Saint Laurent. Plus there’s a chill in the air tonight and I’m still fending off a head cold”
“Fuck your head cold. I’m in dire straits here”
“Oh look. We’re here. There’s my car. Thanks for the company”
“What…what do you mean thanks for the company? You’re not seriously going to leave me like this are you?”
“I’m three seasons behind on The Walking Dead. I’d love to help out, really I would. But damn that Reedus boy can act”
“Fine. Leave me to perish”
“I knew you’d understand. Tell you what, I saw you eyeing up those feather dusters back at the store. It just so happens that I keep one handy to dust my dashboard. You can take that if you like”
“A feather duster? I’m bleeding out like a menstrual oxen and you’re offering me a feather duster?”
“Yeah you know. To keep the wound clean”
It didn’t look like any more agreeable terms would be forthcoming so I bit the bullet and accepted his throwaway token.
“There you go”
“Don’t mention it. You can pay me tomorrow. Running up quite the tab here”
“Your kindness knows no bounds”
“Shucks. You know what, I like you. Think we could have become buddies had it not been for the whole zombie infection thing. What did you say your name was again?”
“Sorry pal. Gotta take this call. It’s the wife. She gets aerated if I don’t answer within two rings. Gotta dash. Toodle pip”
Toodle pip. While this is a delightful turn of phrase, it was scant consolation as my fair-weather friend sped off into the sunset, leaving little old me sporting something of a spurter. The toxin had evidently begun to do its foul work and I could feel such coursing through my ventricles as I contemplated my zombie walk home. Miss Rosa may have thought that she got a bum deal as she trundled home after being ejected from public transport for taking a stand for equal rights, but my two-mile trudge was looking far less therapeutic. To make matters worse, I had begun to feel the effects of zombie brain, which is much like baby brain, only a darned sight more terminal. I had forgotten the shopkeeper’s code. What was it again? 4-7-8-1? 7-1-4-FUCK! Not that I felt peckish for fondant anymore; at least not one encased in chocolate. Human fondant was suddenly far more enticing a proposition. I was already becoming a zombie and the time had come for me to accept this decidedly bitter pill.
It took me an hour to finally make it back to my tool shed and that is where you find me currently. My pulse is almost non-existent; I just finished my third underdone sirloin in ten minutes, and larvae have begun wriggling through the gauze of my bandage with startling regularity. I’m now officially worm meal. However, while I’m still in loose possession of my faculties, I shall search for any vague positivity within my plight. I’ve got twenty smokes. Actually it’s nineteen since the government snuck one out of every box hoping the general public wouldn’t notice the omission, but that’s still a full quota. What other reasons are there right now for being cheerful? That’s right, how absent-minded of me.
My dear friend and heterosexual life companion Silent Shadow is due over in twenty minutes to shoot a podcast. I always look forward to his visits and what better time for a drop-in than now? He makes me chortle habitually, indeed a guffaw isn’t out of the question once we commence chewing the gristle so to speak. He’s also a fascinating fellow, full to the brim with interesting anecdotes and well-worn sea shanties to croon in unison.
Above all else though, he’s a tasty motherfucker. Plunging my dental daggers into the supple flesh pulled tantalizingly taut across his cranium sounds simply exquisite, given that the options are far from plentiful at this time of night. Shadow it is then. And here’s another bonus. It would appear that he has been engaging in a spot of speedwalking too as he’s here way early. My pal relies on his fleetness of foot and the element of surprise to make every entrance but, sadly for him, I can smell his brains wafting through as he prepares to pounce from beyond the shadows he chooses to populate. Here he is, get ready for it, and try to act startled so as not to hurt his feelings.
“Hi buddy. Boy, you got me that time. Really had my blood pumping. Here, take a seat alongside me my old pal”
“Have you heard?”
“About the zombies? Yeah I heard something about it on the news earlier”
“By the way, digging on the feather duster”
“Thanks. You wouldn’t believe what I went through to get that. Care for a fondant?”
“Does a mongoose shit in a Mulberry bush? Gimme”
“My, what a heady scent I discern”
“That’s Old Spice dude. Here, take a sniff”
I feel a tad bad for my incognizant friend but I can deny myself a little twilight snackeroonie no longer. He’d want it this way; what could be worse than having your forehead artery exposed by a complete stranger? When you think of it, I’m doing him a service. Now it is with regret that I must leave you here as my mother always taught me it’s rude to talk with your mouth full. Say aah Silent Shadow.