California, 2005

 

 

My creator never saw fit to give me a name.  That’s okay; others have taken that burden upon themselves. Now I have many names. The most popular among them is “Monster.”

 

 

Santa Mira was supposed to be my retirement home. Large enough that it’s easy for someone to go unnoticed, small enough to be able to get some privacy, I had actually deluded myself into thinking this Southern California community would afford me the chance to live the rest of my life unnoticed. But for someone... something like me, peace just doesn’t happen.

 

 

It started with an explosion at the Hybra Tech plant on the edge of town. As a rule I do not watch television, as it’s too banal, but I do listen to syndicated talk radio.  I like “’Jung at Heart’ with Dr Niles Crane” and “Kitty and the Midnight Hour.” Not a big fan of Rush Limbaugh, though, so when they interrupted his program to warn about the fire, loss of life, and rioting, I wasn’t too upset.

 

 

Within an hour’s time, though, enough information had been leaked that I knew there was a real problem. Terms like “bio-weapons,” “soldier augmentation,” and “military contract” made it past the censors, so I grit my teeth and wait for the inevitable… “Witnesses described the alleged creatures as RoboCop meets Frankenstein.”

 

 

There it is. The name that will haunt me till someone finds a way to finally end my existence. Hasn’t happened yet, and Lord knows plenty have tried. With my luck, I’ll outlive the human race; then maybe I’ll get some undisturbed rest, at least until the planet runs out of air. But for now I have to do something about this mess, before it turns into an angry mob looking for someone to blame. Here’s a head’s up, in case anyone can’t put it together:  they always blame me.

 

 

I don’t own a car. Nothing standard would fit me, and getting something custom built would only draw attention I want to avoid. But I do have a military issue Silver Mirage motorcycle, supposedly the only one ever built to support someone with my frame. Naturally, I ditched the sidecar; don’t really see much call for a tail-gunner, and it’s not like I hang around with… okay, I don’t hang around with anyone. Ever.

 

 

It takes all of 30 minutes to get across town. All the heavy traffic is fleeing in the opposite direction, and with my leather jacket and helmet on, I’m just another asshole biker riding way too fast. My senses of smell isn’t quite the same as it is for humans, so I wind up detecting the acrid vapors from the fire long before I can see smoke, let alone feel the heat. I can even distinguish one of the chemical agents by smell alone:  a nasty concoction called Trioxin. Those dumbasses must be trying to make another platoon of super-soldiers for Uncle Sam, or else the Initiative is using the plant as a holding tank for the mistakes they made upstate.

 

 

The thing about Trioxin zombies is that they usually retain a lot of their human intelligence. Cyborgs would be a lot easier to handle, since they eventually run out of ammo, and they don’t spread by infecting the populace (don’t believe everything you see on Star Trek). With zombies, rounding them all up is the real chore, and with Trioxin zombies, they can get sneaky.

 

 

I’m not fond of using weapons, but I also don’t relish getting Trioxin on my jacket, so I grab an antenna from a disabled news van and start swinging at anything that shambles. As they fall, I make a point of crushing their skulls with my feet. The SWAT team is already on scene, so I’m not really surprised when they fire a few rounds at me, but come on; I’m clearly trying to take these things down. Blame it on my jaundiced skin, I suppose, or perhaps the fact that I’m made from the parts of 14 dead people. Why wouldn’t they think I’m a zombie, and if they did, who’s to say they’d be wrong, anyway?

 

 

Fine, I hop back on my bike and ride off, looking for stragglers. I don’t want to be anywhere near ground zero anyway; the military has a tendency to clean up these kinds of messes by using extreme firepower, as in the kind with a half-life. If I didn’t already know I’d survive that kind of explosion I might be tempted to stick around for the fireworks, but the last time I tried that… well, let’s just say it didn’t help.

 

 

I see a truck swerving as it speeds away, not proof that it’s being driven by a zombie, but enough to make me suspicious. I ride up alongside it, still wielding that antenna. When I reach the driver’s window, the smell betrays the infection in him, even though he’s still technically alive. I hold the antenna up over my head and thrust in through the glass. I miss the driver, but I do send him careening off the road and into a tree. He and his three passengers aren’t going anywhere for a few minutes, which is more than enough time for me to set the truck on fire. Two of those passengers were clean, but they wouldn’t have lasted too long anyway, and burning to death beats being eaten by the corpses of your friends.

 

 

The pick-up in flames, I continue my patrol towards town. I see a group of kids talking under a store awning as I get closer to the city proper, but I had better check to make sure none of them are infected. Since they’re downwind of me, I have to get off the bike and see for myself. My sense of smell may be excellent, but the doctor didn’t do such a great job when he set my optic nerves, so I really have to get close if I want to see details. Fastest way to do this is just to take off my helmet, let them get a good look at me. If they’re already zombies, they won’t react, and if they’re alive, they’ll run, which helps to clear the streets. As long as they’re the only ones who see me, no one should figure out that I’m in town, and the descriptions from the teens will be assumed to be of a zombie.

 

 

Helmet off, I step into the light and growl. It’s easier than yelling, more effective, and doesn’t hurt nearly as much (that’s right, vocal chords weren’t Doctor Frankenstein’s specialty, either). I get the response I wanted (they run), but I also get a wooden shaft propelled through my chest from behind for the effort.

 

 

“He’s still standing, what should I do?” a shaky voice calls out.

 

 

“Hit him again, I’ll get some holy water ready,” was the gruff reply.

 

 

I turn to face my attackers--both 30-somethings near as I can tell--and rip the stake from my heart. Hurts like a bitch, and black crud oozes from the wound. At least they didn’t aim for a lung; those take the longest to heal.

 

 

“Holy shit! It’s the attack of Herman Munster!” The one with the crossbow gets ready to launch another stake, aiming at my head this time. His buddy chucks a water balloon at me. And people wonder why I want to die?

 

 

‘Gruff‘ speaks up. “Hold your fire!  He’s not a goddamned shit-sucking vampire. Must be some other kind of undead.”

 

 

“Whatever it is, we have to kill it fast. The news said these things were spreading.” ‘Shaky’ still has the drop on me, but there’s a better chance he’ll shoot me accidentally than actually take the shot.

 

 

“Aim for the brain. That’s how you destroy a zombie.” My voice is slow, loud, deep, and gravelly, practically a roar. I understand most people find it a very unpleasant sound.

 

 

Shaky drops his weapon and looks at his partner. Gruff tries to console him. “It's not your fault, he pulled a mind scramble on you! He opened his mouth and talked!”

 

 

“Zombies. That’s the problem here. Stop them all or they keep spreading. Fast. And daylight doesn’t mean a thing to them.”

 

 

“What are you, some kind of walking wikipedia of the weird?” Gruff was recovering nicely, but he was still in shock.

 

 

“I’m a monster. Who would know monsters better than me?”

 

 

“Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense.” Shaky keeps his eyes on me, which makes fumbling through his knapsack much more difficult. At least he manages to get the crossbow put away. No idea what he hopes to find in there to kill me with, but I’d rather save us the time.

 

 

“If you aren’t infected, leave. Zombie plagues don’t tend to have many survivors, and I will not be pulling my punches to avoid killing.”

 

The sound of machine guns cuts off whatever the duo might have had to say to me. This is turning into a fiasco.

 

 

A Jeep, one used by the SWAT team until recently, comes barreling down the road. Zombies, of course, but zombies dressed as… military cyborgs with guns, missiles, and buzz saws attached to their bodies.

 

 

Maybe I need to re-evaluate my opinion of Star Trek.

 

 

The boys who attacked me start jumping like frogs to get out of the way. Which is about the stupidest thing you can do around zombies, since they’re always more likely to see a moving target. So I rush the Jeep on foot, and give the frog brothers a chance to save themselves.

 

 

The impact sends me sprawling backwards, but it also knocks the vehicle out of commission, and throws the universal soldiers through the air, right over me. I get a good look at them as they go:  a male and a female, both horribly burnt up and bullet-ridden. Looks like at least two headshots have already been scored on them, but of course bionic zombies don’t have to rely on human brains for mobility.  At least they won’t be talkers.

 

 

I get back on my feet before they do, but they aren’t far behind. And those weapons are still active. Who puts a buzz saw on a zombie, anyway?

 

 

They’re clearly tough, but are they Frankenstein Fucking Monster tough? To find out, I grab the front end of the Jeep with both hands, really digging my fingers into the metal, and heft it at the pair. One of them just has time to open fire on it before they both go down. But I can’t be sure this will stop them, so it’s time to disassemble Johnny-5.

 

 

They have the wreckage removed before I reach them. Not much flesh left on them anymore, but they sure do smell like fetid bodies. At least some of their weapons look damaged beyond repair. The male sits up and targets me with a mounted shoulder grenade launcher, but it doesn’t fire. The female extracts some shrapnel from her torso, so she can open a cabinet containing… more ammunition. So much for letting them expend their rounds.

 

 

“Yo, Terminators!” Great, my froggy friends never left. “Terminate these!” Both frogs release arrows fired from compound bows. What that will accomplish, I have no idea. They are great shots though, as both arrows enter eye sockets. The cyborgs twitch momentarily and fall backwards.

 

 

“Yeah! Death by Bluetooth!”

 

 

“I’m not big on computers, but these things have probably been built to withstand an EMP. I think they will restart soon.” But at least they were thinking; I like that.

 

 

Shaky tosses me his belt. “Were they built to withstand grenades?”

 

 

“Our contribution to scum-sucking undead birth control!”

 

 

I catch it; all twelve grenades are clipped to a single wire, so I can pull the pins all at once. I punch open their chest plates and insert six each. Then I stomp both their heads, just to keep them busy if they reboot before I finish, and shove the bodies closer together.

 

 

“Run!” I shout, hoping they’ve already fled too far to hear me. With a quick tug, the grenades are armed, and I have just enough time to push the jeep on top of both of them before the explosion.

 

 

                                              *****

 

 

I would like to be able to say that I was knocked unconscious, maybe even killed by the blast. No such luck. The jeep did the job, directing the blast so none of the force was wasted, and all that remains of the zombies is a pot hole eight feet deep and twenty feet wide, lined with chunks of metal and bone fused to the concrete. My own twisted visage suffered a major hit; even my yellow eyes had blisters on them, and every physical sensation was coupled with excruciating pain. But mostly, the explosion just blew me down the street about a block, and left me wide-awake for the whole show. Couldn’t see a damn thing for a while, so I had to hide myself in a garage till the flames died down and my corneas healed.

 

 

Now I’m on the road again, with nothing but the shredded clothes I was already wearing, and my Silver Mirage, which was thankfully far enough from the blast radius to still be in running condition. Paint job’s ruined, though. No way to know if those awesome monster hunters survived, but they seemed pretty resourceful, so I’m confident they made it. Which will probably suck for me, because they seem resourceful enough to be able to come up with a way to hurt me. Not kill me, of course, but just mess me up for a good long while. And I’d hate to have to kill them for that, but no way I could let them get away with it.

 

 

Maybe it’s time I head back to East.  The frogs can have the West Coast, as I’m sure they enjoy it more than I do. One thing about living in California I never could stomach…

 

IRS