Dawn Harshaw / Zombies VS Vampires VS Demons / Hungry Zombies Demand Brains (short story)

Hungry Zombies Demand Brains


Beware of entitlement. When you claim more of the world than you give of yourself, your ego curls inward, causing shortsightedness and festering anxiety.

- Dreamer's Handbook



Lester kicked the motionless hunk of flesh. "Move! Feeding time."

The zombie let out a growl that ended up being only a whimper, but when Lester put on the floor a vial of translucent liquid and a slab of processed meat, the zombie found the strength to down the liquid at once.

Lester backed out of the cell and Kieran bolted the door behind him.

"I hate this job!" Lester complained. "Why do we always have to do it?"

"Standard rotation," Kieran said. "We finish this floor, plus two more, and it won't be our turn for a while."

The large, dome-shaped floor of the underground facility housed sixty cells in circular arrangement. The cell walls were made from see-through, impenetrable material that survived the apocalypse. In addition to the out-of-order electronic keypad locks, the door panels had large bolting mechanisms installed on the outside.

The lights flickered, and Lester flinched. "I bet those bastards at Oakheart have working cryo equipment - none of this low-tech preservation for them!" He nudged his colleague with the elbow. "Am I right or what?"

Kieran shrugged. "We don't have any say in the distribution of resources."

"That's what I'm saying! It's not right!"

Kieran moved on without a reply. He unbolted the door of the next cell, and Lester entered with his pacifier at the ready.

This zombie was unresponsive too, and Lester vented his anger with a strong kick to the ribs. "Mealtime, you worthless Serum-waster!" Lester sheathed the pacifier, and dropped off the vial and meat handed to him by Kieran.

The lights flickered again, giving the large dome an eerie look.

"We can't even get reliable lighting!" Lester said loudly as Kieran bolted the door. "Seriously, if we would get just a fraction of the Serum we give to these third-rates, I'd show those Serum-gobblers on top! Meritocracy, my ass..."

The lighting wasn't the only irritating thing; the fact that most cell-occupants wore the same kind of white overcoat as his own - albeit tattered and covered with drool - constantly danced around the threshold of Lester's conscious mind.

"Studies show diminishing gains of intelligence upon increased consumption of Serum, and moreso in case of unrefined brain matter. Ours is supposed to be a cost-effective distribution," Kieran replied.

Lester glanced at the pile of locked supply boxes in the center. "That doesn't stop the high-and-mighty technomages hogging it for themselves, now does it?"

Kieran looked around nervously. "You shouldn't say such things. The walls have eyes and ears."

Lester's held back an outburst, but his face showed disgust mixed with anger. "...you know what? Let's just get it done. I'll continue here, you go in the other direction, and we'll finish twice as fast."

"But, security protocols dictate-"

"Damn the security protocols! I don't want to spend more time here than I have to. Besides, they're starved and brainless, surely we can handle them!"

Kieran shrugged. "Fine," he said and walked away.

Lester unbolted another cell door. He suspected Kieran agreed to the faster work arrangement only to avoid his company. Kieran, along with almost everyone else, didn't show much susceptibility towards Lester's ideas - even though he often spoke loudly to help get his point across. Like-minded colleagues tended to get reassigned to worse jobs, perhaps even ending up in preservation cells much like these. Lester didn't want to admit it, but as a second-rate scientist whose research showed no results, he was sliding towards a similar fate.

Kicking zombies wasn't as fun as the first few times - after the pent-up anger found its outlet, only anxiety remained.

A few of the zombies were new arrivals; their life energies not completely depleted yet. These zombies pounded on cell doors, screaming, their bloodshot eyes and not-yet-torn coats marking the descent to instinct-based undeath.

In addition to providing a break from anxiety, Lester found a degree of joy in putting such a lively one down. He entered the cell with his pacifier at the ready, shocking and hitting till just a bit after the subject stopped resisting. Such action didn't invigorate Lester, but it assured him that he was still above the bottom rung of the ladder.

After the beating, he looked back to make sure Kieran wasn't watching and meted out the real punishment: drinking half of the zombie's Serum dosage and pouring out the rest.

The zombie fervently licked the spilt liquid from the floor.

The lights glared, and Lester's overcoat wasn't as white anymore. Lester was genuinely convinced that with just a bit more Serum he would be destined to great things, most of all great status.

"A dozen more and we're done with this floor," Lester said loudly. The dome shape amplified and briefly echoed his voice.

"Yeah," Kieran replied from the other side.

The transparent cell walls made it easier to effectively supervise the floor at all times. Whoever designed the place clearly felt that the advantage of control outweighed the disadvantage of intelligent prisoners monitoring their captors' behavior.

Lester entered the next cell with the usual mixture of being distracted by anxiety and overconfidence.

"Move, you decaying bastard!" Came the command accompanied by the usual kick.

In a split-second, Lester's eyes grew wide with surprise as the zombie grabbed his foot and twisted it.

Lester swung the pacifier as he fell, but missed his target by a wide margin.

When instinct bestows an advantage, intellect can be a hindrance. The zombie pounced at once, with much more dexterity than expected. It kicked away the pacifier and held Lester's head in both hands - the eyes reflected only fear.

Thump thump thump... the zombie repeatedly bashed Lester's skull into the floor until it cracked and left a small, but growing puddle of blood.

The bloodlust didn't last long: the zombie let go of the head and reached for the vial that fell from Lester's other hand. It downed it in one gulp, and moved on to the almost empty unlocked box of vials outside the cell.

The zombie drank one dose of Serum after the other while watching Kieran make a run for the elevator.

The hunger still unquenched, the zombie went back in the cell, and kept bashing Lester's skull until it could be pried open.

One hasty bite of pink goo after the other, the zombie's demeanor changed. Its eye movements and breathing steadied, and its posture straightened. It ate the last few bites slowly and with a sense of indifferent duty.

With the hunger satiated, the zombie walked tall next to the locked supply boxes in the center of the hall. Facing the elevator, it kneeled down, placed its hands on the back of the neck, and waited.

Long heartbeats extended into minutes; soon the elevator door opened and armed guards swarmed through. Kieran, too, held a mean-looking pacifier, and they all pointed their weapons at the zombie who tried very hard not to move.

Blood dripped from the zombie's hands onto the floor. After a failed attempt to clear the throat, it spoke with a raspy voice:

"I believe there's currently a job opening for me."

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Dawn Harshaw / Zombies VS Vampires VS Demons / Hungry Zombies Demand Brains (short story)