Each Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them.
H Trope: The Abandoned Mall…
In the 1978 horror flick, DAWN OF THE DEAD (written and directed by the master horror director, George Romero), after the zombie apocalypse, a mall becomes a refuge for a couple of humans who clean out the zombies and go on a wild shopping spree. Of course, that doesn’t last long and the zombies get in and go on a nasty eating spree…But no one EVER talks about what happened AFTER all the zombies are done eating brains and Humans are all gone…or ever more, what happens if we figure out a way to deal with them, and it becomes a government venture, and then someone has to retire from a job of taking care of the zombies...
“Maybe you aren’t bored with zombies,” said the reporter on the thinscreen computer, “but me and the rest of the Young Alive are zeroing in on stultified unto Death! Zombs are old news, and old news is no news,” she paused. “You are all that’s left of the Crew of the first International Zombie Containment Area, there’s got to be something interesting going on there!”
Ryan Martense rested his chin in his hand. The woman on the screen was young and looked like a celebrity. She was some sort of broadpodcaster or something. He said, “The difference between you and me is that you can ignore zombies. I can’t. Zombies are my business.”
“My point exactly! My generation should learn their history a helluva lot better than they have! I’m trying really…very…hard to not ignore zombies, but I need an relevant, current story in order to interest my listeners and viewers, Mister um,” she looked off screen for an instant, “Martin.”
“It’s Martense and…”
“I need a good interview if you want me to put you back in the spotlight,” she scowled fiercely at him, sighed, adding, “If you think of anything,” she hung up on him.
Ryan made a face, sighed and said, “…call you.” He pushed the creaky old chair away from the desk and touched the thinscreen. It turned transparent. He stared through it, and through the Workhouse’s only real picture window before he finally stood up. Outside, the sun was just rising in all of its watery February glory. It was, of course, a Monday. “The rollers have to roll,” he muttered as he stood up. He crossed his office and opened the door, plucking his jacket from the coatrack, and pulling it on as he hunched against a cold blast of air. Strictly speaking, he didn’t have to roll the Area during the winter because in Minnesota, the ground was frozen solid. But all he had to do was recall the Christmas Uprising twenty-eight years ago, and he’d be out in any weather to keep the buried undead down, revving up the engine and rolling the zombie bones.
He breathed in through his nose, and hurried from the Workhouse across the gravel parking lot as he pulled on his thermal gloves. The last working roller was parked up against the charging plate. Forty-five steel-reinforced natural vulcanized rubber tires in five rows, nine wheels across supported a one million kilo payload bay filled with basalt, steel, and lead and designed to compact rock, sand, and gravel soil as well as crush human bones. The cab was nearly five meters up and then two meters tall itself. The roller had been painted neon green except for black numbers, and varicolored logos and warning signs. Access to the control cabin was by a metal staircase. He stepped up the first flight, stopped on the landing and slapped the retraction pad. The flight folded up so that it rode a meter or so above the surface. As he climbed, he counted the rust patches; remembering why this step bent down and twenty-three clumps later, that step bent up. A gust of frigid air nipped exposed bare skin whenever he reached up for the handrails. Once on the platform, he opened the cab door and slid into the freezing cold bucket seat, jerking the door shut behind himself. Built for a crew of six, he’d used sheets of insulation to make a two-meter-wide cab out of the five-meter-wide original control room. He stabbed the green INITIATE button, and the roller hummed to life.
He stopped shivering as the heater kicked up and a wan sunrise spilled golden light across the Containment Area. He tapped the computer to life. Based on the charging stall he’d parked in, it produced an optimal roll pattern. Ryan settled into the pilot seat and with a control stick in each hand, he pushed both forward and set out, the roller slowly picking up speed.
The eighty hectare IZCA had once been a gravel pit. Originally eight hundred hectares, it had been intensely developed in the decade before the world-wide zombie conflict. When the virus appeared – either some mutation of the flu and Ebola or entirely artificial – it swept around the world. The Conflict started before Ryan graduated from high school, closing all public institutions. After that, he got a job in fast food for a while, paying below minimum wage, leading exactly nowhere. Then the zombies almost won until a physicist from Haiti figured out that a precisely tuned electromagnetic pulse would stun the undead for six to eight hours…
Names: ♂ American