Did someone say zombies? No?
Well, Persephone did, on her way to work, lunch in hand. Here she is, with more:
I ran into a backed up fudgefest of bad driving coming up on University Drive, right before the tracks, a white tanker truck turned near ninety degrees, blocking both lanes of traffic and hugging the side of a school bus.
The bus looked empty aside from a very angry driver.
I didn’t see anyone in the tanker truck.
Fargo Septic & Sewer.
I was pretty sure I could smell it. Lunch ended pretty quickly for me.
Naturally, before mom’s car could turn around, I had cars come up behind me, and I couldn’t do much of anything but sit back and enjoy the stench.
I monkeyed with the console. I found no word on why someone would decide to park in the middle of North Seventh, no word on much of anything. This is Fargo, right? So I checked my social feeds and waited for something to happen.
I read Iris’ latest screed about her boyfriend, trouble already, and Luis G’s most recent rant about the mileage tax. Nothing from Mom or Aunt Callie.
I saw someone moving up the road in my direction, a man in an orange jumpsuit and an NDSU cap. He was dirty, but it looked like grease or some other byproduct of a day job, something like septic and sewer instead of the delicate dirt tracings of a hobo.
I was pretty sure he was the toolbag who’d ditched the poop truck smack in the middle of frickin everything.
He wasn’t moving like he was drunk or high or brain damaged. He just looked… unaffected. Like he was just going for a walk in the middle of the road, spreading his own brand of traffic congestion and liquid human waste.
The one thing I noticed about him were his eyes. Bloodshot… not like a wispy pink, but like shark week. Heavy flow.
That didn’t look healthy.
He was walking between the waiting cars, knocking his elbow against the mirror of the blue car to his right as he passed. He stopped at the driver’s side door of the red SUV that was idling in front of me. He pulled on the handle.
I don’t think the driver had been expecting that.
The door opened slightly, but the thirty-something man in the SUV quickly yanked the door shut. And he looked big enough to make sure that door stayed shut.
But the man in the jumpsuit tried a second pull anyway… and soon gave up. He turned to the small blue car on the other side.
I could see a middle-aged woman in the driver’s seat; she was staring at his orange and black plumage and not really doing anything else.
I can’t say I’d have been doing things any differently.
The man in the jumpsuit pulled open the passenger door.
That’s North Dakota. The poor woman hadn’t even thought to lock it.
The man climbed into the passenger side.
For a split second I thought about intervening, but I wasn’t really sure what I was even looking at. Maybe he was just trying to bum a breath mint, or asking for a ride to Hardee’s.
And let’s not forget, there were other people around, like a guy in an SUV who was closer and significantly bigger than I was, and he didn’t seem to be doing anything. If anyone’s allowed to hide behind the bystander effect, I’d say it’s someone short and wimpy like me. I got suspended from the Davies Track Team once — two whole weeks — for being too skinny. That was before the day I discovered the nachos at the Kum & Go… things have changed a little since then.
But it’s not like I’m any stronger. Just less spindly.
Less like Iris.
So I didn’t intervene. I just waited and watched.
After remembering to lock my own doors.
The woman in the blue car seemed calm at first, gesturing a little at the man in the jumpsuit but not giving off too much heat.
Then I saw him grab her by the elbow.
She started yelling at him. Really indignant.
I got out of my car, hoping that just seeing someone paying attention would be enough to get him to back down. Or would at least get the barrel-chested man in the red SUV off his fat ass.
So against my better judgment, I rushed to the passenger side of the blue car and knocked on the window.
The man in the jumpsuit let go of the woman’s arm. He turned to look at me.
He didn’t look like he was all there.
I suddenly regretted getting out of my mom’s car.
He turned back to the woman in the driver’s seat.
I knocked again. Or pounded, really. I figured you’d just distract him like you would a small rodent.
This time he didn’t bother to look back to me.
He yanked the woman’s arm for a second time.
She needed help.
I’d left my phone back in the car, snapped into the console. I glanced at the red SUV. I had no way of knowing if that do-nothing toolbag had even bothered to call the cops.
I made a little phone to my ear gesture at him.
I knew he saw me. I saw him shrug.
I heard the woman shriek. It sounded a little like the squeal you’d expect from a terrified poodle. Then there was a low whine.
I almost didn’t turn back to look.
But I did. I looked.
The man in the jumpsuit had bitten her in the arm, right above her elbow. He’d bitten her, and I didn’t think he had actually spit anything out.
There was less blood than I would have expected.
Less blood, and that haunting whine of hers that kept on going. Like when you know you’re dying, but you can’t do anything about it… so you do the only thing you can… you make a sad little noise.
I grabbed the door handle.
But I stopped myself from opening the door.
I knew there was nothing I could do to save her.
I watched him take another bite on her arm.
And another. Above the shoulder.
I was sure of it by that point.
He hadn’t spit anything out.
And the whining had stopped.
I let go of the door handle.
I saw another man walking on the road, this time between us and the oncoming traffic. He had an orange jumpsuit as well. But he had red-brown stains to go with the black grease. And his bloodshot eyes were matched by fresh blood on his chin.
He’d had someone to eat as well.
And he was looking at me. I was new on the menu. Local fare.
I heard the engine rev from the red SUV. Like he’d taken it off the autonav.
Was I about to get run over? That’s basically all people tend to do once they take over for the car-driving robot. Which is why most of the newer cars won’t even let you do that in the middle of a city.
Like my mother’s.
I grabbed the handle of the SUV’s rear sliding door. It wasn’t locked.
I climbed in.
Then I heard the click of the door locks.
The man in the SUV didn’t say a word. It seemed like he might have wanted me to get in. Who doesn’t love a damsel in distress who looks like she’s got a filthy mop head glued to her scalp?
He rammed the back of his SUV into my mother’s car. He pushed it back, right into the minivan behind it.
He kept trying to push it, flooring the pedal.
But he couldn’t get it any farther back.
“Why aren’t they moving?” he said. “Goddammit.”
“You can get through,” I said. “Onto the sidewalk.”
“There’s a goddamn pole in the way.”
He swung his steering wheel and shifted gears.
He pulled the SUV over the curb and onto the sidewalk, running over a “stop here on red” sign and nearly side-swiping a building.
He brought us up to the crossroad, University, where traffic was slowly moving around the septic truck. He turned right, heading north.
He kept glancing over at me. Not at my chin… lower, actually. Like he was evaluating my refugee claim.
He looked like your average ND farm boy, or what they look like when they’re a good ten years past being a boy anymore. He was heavyset, but not unhealthy-looking, with a Vikings cap covering his greasy hair.
He had a bit of a baby face, to be honest. I know it’s not cool for me to admit, but I have trouble taking guys like that seriously.
“What the hell was that?” he asked.
“I don’t know…”
“He was eating her.”
“Look… I suppose I can drop you off somewhere, or…”
“I was trying to get to work.”
“Yeah. Me, too. But I feel like we should get the heck out of town.”
“Did you call the police?”
He shook his head.
“Well, I don’t have my phone,” I said.
“Console,” he said, speaking at his dashboard, “call 911.”
His phone started making those little dialing noises.
But it didn’t connect.
The phone was beeping, long, loud beeps.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
I didn’t know what that meant. But it seemed like he expected me to understand, so I didn’t ask for an explanation.
“How many people could possibly be calling this in?” he said.
“Should we go to the police?”
“Like, drive there?”
“I can hear the sirens,” he said. “They don’t need our help.”
“I can’t hear any…”
“Well, I can. They know what’s going on…”
“Yeah, okay,” I said. “But we’re witnesses.”
“They don’t need witnesses. There’s a guy with half a woman’s arm in his stomach. You know what? I think what we really need is a goddamn drink.”
“I’m only eighteen, hey?”
“Does that matter?”
“Depends on the drink.”
He reached over to my side. “I’m Lucas, by the way.”
He pulled open the glove compartment, shoving his right hand in and starting to rifle through. He wasn’t spending near enough time looking out his front windshield.
I was worried he’d forgotten that he was the one driving.
“I can find whatever it is you’re looking for,” I said. “You know… self-preservation…”
He pulled back and returned to driving. “My sister works for Allegiant Air… every once in a while a bottle of artisan whiskey goes missing… got a nice collection back at the farm.”
I saw a minibottle, sporting an off-white label with an angel on it. And another matching bottle, just as little.
“Why do you need two?” I asked.
“In case I rescue an attractive young lady from a horde of zombies.”
“That’s not funny.”
“Any of it. I don’t know what was wrong with those guys. That second guy… he’s bitten someone, too. I saw the blood.”
“I saw it, too. Pass me one of those bottles, alright?”
I didn’t argue. I handed one over.
He unscrewed the cap and took a gulp. A big one.
A zombie-apocalypse-sized gulp. The kind you shouldn’t take when you’ve taken your car off the auto-nav.
“I want to know what that was,” he said, as we drove on past the university. “It’s pretty crazy, I mean… two psychopaths chomping on human flesh…”
“That sums it up.”
“That’s not something you see in real life.”
“Maybe it’s a publicity stunt,” I said. “Like that giant squid attack in Japan. We’ll see it go viral…”
“Check my console.”
Someone had posted a video on Lucas’ feed. Titled “Fargo Zombie Attack”. I didn’t want to watch. I didn’t want to find out my stupid face and hair — and my stupid pimple — were all over it.
“Fargo Zombie Attack,” I said. “This is ridiculous. And embarrassing. And stupid. They didn’t even have any good, like, zombie makeup on…”
“So viral marketing,” Lucas said. “You were right. They’re bringing zombies back. Maybe a reboot. That’d be pretty awesome. Romero or Walking Dead… either/or is fine with me…”
“Viral marketing. Ugh. Now I just feel like an idiot. But it looked so real with that woman’s arm…”
Lucas chuckled. “I know. They got us good, huh?” He nodded toward the glove compartment. “But don’t worry… you can still have that drink. Even if we don’t need to head for the hills.”
“We don’t have hills around here.”
“Ha! Hey, have a drink, there. That other bottle.”
“I’m not trying to get you drunk or anything. But that way we know we each get as much as we want…”
“Yeah… um…” It didn’t make sense to be hanging around in his grotty SUV anymore. “Can you take me to my work?”
“My work. 29th Street North. Right near the tractor plant.”
“Yeah… okay… gotta turn right back around, though…”
He was disappointed. I wasn’t sure if it was because his wild-caught eighteen year old girl was moving on, or because he’d just found out that he’d been scared half to death by some ad company that had lowballed the special effects.
“Well, thanks for rescuing me,” I said. “Even if it wasn’t real. It’s the thought that counts.”
“You sure you don’t want to have a drink with me?”
“I’m sure. Sorry, Lucas.”
“Yeah, okay. Whatever.”
He restored the autonav and directed the car to 29th Street North.
“And 3rd,” I said.
“And 3rd,” he repeated. “You know, you still haven’t told me your name.”
“Oh, sorry… it’s Luna.” Not the first time I’d done that. I’d learned from Iris that you can’t just hand out your first name to people anymore. It’s bad enough they might take a pic of you when you’re not looking.
“Good to meet you, Luna.”
He took another gulp from his minibottle. A little smaller.
“I guess you got a boyfriend.”
“I guess I’m only eighteen.”
“I get it.”
“It’s just been a weird day, you know? Almost the end of the world.”
“Yeah. I know.”
He handed me his bottle. “Can you put that away for me?”
Zombie apocalypse averted.
Persephone: Goddess of the Not So Undead
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