by Will Raven
In the spirit of the Halloween season, here’s a creepy zombie story.
Dr. Raymond Wescott cleared his throat. He was about to walk on stage before a packed house at the International Academy for the Advancement of Science. He waited for his gracious introduction to conclude.
Journalists from around the world and some of the most eminent scientists on the planet fidgeted in their seats waiting to hear the eminent doctor speak. Others had strongly rebuked Wescott's controversial research. Others called him Dr. Frankenstein.
Three months ago, Dr. Wescott received official notice that he was awarded the 2018 Helsinki Global Health and Humanitarian Prize for saving mankind.
His shinning moment had arrived. The handsome doctor with wavy black hair straightened his bow tie and walked down the red carpet runaway that extended several feet into the center aisle. In his right hand, he held a gold statue of a dove with a stethoscope around its neck. Also known as the Dovey Award.
Dressed in a tuxedo, he felt a little like a penguin waddling out to the tip of an iceberg. A lavalier mic was mounted to his left lapel.
“Good evening,” Dr. Wescott said. “I’m honored to be with you to accept this distinguished award.”
The crowd was all ears as the doctor started his acceptance speech.
“I would not be here, and perhaps you might not either, if not for my incredible wife, Zelda. Or should I say my former wife, for she is actually deceased. She is among the walking dead. A zombie, if you will,” the good doctor said.
The audience got their first taste of Zelda two weeks ago when a video of her brushing her hair went viral. She quickly gained zombie star status.
Later, a Paris designer created the Zelda Z clothing line that became wildly popular among female teens. Not long ago, Zelda was a Top Secret government project.
“And so I feel it most appropriate that I share acceptance of this award with Zelda.
A speckle of jeers erupted from the otherwise polite crowd.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I would like you to meet Zelda. She is a ghoul and I love her,” the doctor said light heartedly.
A few chuckles. Then the curtain behind Dr. Wescott opened wide enough for Zelda to make an epic entrance. A classic chorus of Richard Wagner’s Here Comes the Bride played behind her, adding humor.
Zelda slowly made her way down the narrow runway. It was no catwalk, but she had a certain grace in her awkward steps.
Zelda Lynn Wescott was a beautiful zombie. Her fine makeup gave life to her milky face and hid the dark circles around her bloodshot eyes. Her black-rim glasses and ruby lipstick contrasted perfectly, adding sex appeal and a touch of sophistication. She was well preserved.
Her long indigo hair flowed a quarter-way down her slim frame. She wore a white satin dress cut at the knees. Her monster platform boots added a fashionable look and provided extra balance.
Dr. Wescott watched with warm admiration. Ray and Zelda were college sweethearts who became inseparable since their first biology class together. After Ray completed medical school, they got married at the college chapel.
Zelda reached the end of the runway and stood side-by-side with Ray. The audience gazed at the freakish pair. Cameras flashed like fireflies on a summer night. Scattered oohing and aahing.
“Zelda, please say a few words for us,” Dr. Wescott said, smiling.
She grinned back and then looked into the seats. The subtle gesture quelled the audience.
“Hello, my name is Zelda,” she said, gently waving to the amazed spectators with her left arm.
“Thank you, sweetheart,” Ray said.
She put down her arm and stood straight and silent.
“You just witnessed a miracle and what I’m about to share with you is the story behind it,”
Dr. Westcott said, pulling out his notes. “Who knows it might even be a book one day.”
It was a tragic love story that played over and over in his head on an endless loop. He started at the beginning.
Chapter One. It was three years ago this month that Zelda turned into a zombie. A nightmare that I remember like it was yesterday.
It was a Friday night and I looked forward to spending a relaxing weekend with Zelda who just returned from a two-week trip to Costa Rico. She was a marine biologist who studied humpback whales.
My wife waited for me at our beach house in the small Eastern Shore town of Bentley, Maryland. We loved holding hands and walking along the beach. We often stopped to wiggle our toes in the sand.
The sound of waves crashing into the shore calmed us. And we enjoyed collecting seashells together that Zelda used to create decorative glass jars mixed with colored sands and shells.
On that fateful July night, I left the laboratory at the Waverly Medical Institute after dark. I had been working tirelessly on a vaccine for lymphoma.
I felt guilty about leaving so late when Zelda had expected me home two hours earlier. We planned to grab dinner and see the sun sink into the Atlantic Ocean.
Trying to make up time, I zoomed along in my shiny new red sports car when it suddenly gave out about halfway across the Choptank River Bridge. Naturally the mishap ticked me off. So much for quality.
I pulled off to the shoulder and came to a gradual stop. I turned the starter several times but the engine wouldn’t kick in. In frustration, I pounded my fist on the dashboard and then called Zelda on my iPhone.
“Honey,” I said. “My car just died and I’m on the bridge.”
“You okay?” she asked.
“Yes, but I might have to get a tow.”
“Do you want me to come get you?”
“No, it’s a good 45 minutes away.”
“Really I don’t mind given the situation.”
“Let me see first if they can get the car started again.”
“Okay, but call me if you need me.”
“I love you,” Dr. Wescott said.
“I love you, too,” she said sweetly.
I was about to call Trapp’s Towing Service when an ambulance came to a screeching halt about a quarter-mile into the bridge. The van swerved crossing the center lane before slamming hard into the railing.
I watched the wreckage for a few seconds to see if anyone emerged. But there was no movement. I ran toward the accident. As I got closer, I could see damage to the front and side of the vehicle. The crash partially mangled the grill, but the engine still idled.
Just as I arrived, the driver got out of the van. A young man dressed in a blue uniform had hit his head on the windshield leaving a cobweb in the glass. He was barely conscious and bled from the temple.
“Get me out of here!” the driver said, staggering to the ground. I quickly came to his side.
“There’s a fricking zombie in the back of the ambulance and it just attacked J-J-J-Jerry,” said the driver dazed but still conscious. “I heard screams and looked back. That’s when I crashed.”
Before Dr. Wescott could utter a word, a pounding noise came from inside the ambulance. Suddenly, the rear doors popped open. The paramedic inside rolled out. He was dead. Blood covered his mutilated face. No doubt it was Jerry.
Then a huge Paul Bunyan like figure, big and burly, stepped out. His powder-white face had dark circles around the eyes.
Minutes before the 55-year-old patient lying on the stretcher had suffered a heart attack and was in transit to Marlboro Medical Center. He didn’t make it. Now he was a walking corpse. A tall, bearded ghoul in blue jeans with a red flannel shirt.
I gazed at the creature as it marched freakishly toward me.
“Don’t come any closer!” I warned. But the zombie kept coming. He smelled food.
I took a few steps back.
“Stop, I say!”
At that moment, the zombie walked straight for the ambulance driver. The driver tried to get up, but it was too late. The ghoul grabbed his arm and started eating away. I tried to pull the zombie off, but the powerful creature shoved me away.
It was all over for the driver as the living corpse chewed into his internal organs. I wasn’t going to stick around for the smorgasbord.
I seized the opportunity to hop in the van and get away from the carnage. I cut off the flashing lights to avoid attention and raced down the road trying to fathom what just happened. I quickly reached the end of the bridge and kept going.
I thought about calling my wife, but remembered leaving my cell phone in the car. I wasn’t going back to get it. Not a chance.
The farther away he got the better I breathed. A few minutes later, Macy’s Gas-N-Go was in site. I could call Zelda from there and report the incident to police, as wild as the story sounded.
I started pushing the communications controls on the dashboard to see if I could reach anyone. Then out of the darkness from the side of the road a female zombie walked in front of the van.
I slammed on the brakes but it was too late. The creature hit the front grill and flew back a few yards. The ambulance skidded to a stop.
I realized then that the zombies were multiplying quickly. The one I hit likely just left the gas station.
My thoughts turned to Zelda and whether she was safe. Bentley was normally a quiet little seashore town with candy-colored homes, quaint shops and family-owned restaurants.
I liked the lasagna at Richetto’s Italian Restaurant, while Zelda’s favorite was the bruschetta chicken topped off with tiramisu for dessert.
I hoped that the zombie plague was slow to spread in such a small place where seagulls out numbered humans. But I also knew that the boardwalk presented the perfect platform for rapid infestation.
Passing by some of the villages and towns en route to the beach, I noticed fewer vehicles on the road than usual. I suspected the flesh-eating ghouls were busy elsewhere committing mass murder. I imagined neighbors eating neighbors and husbands eating wives and wives eating husbands. And what about the children?
My stomach turned thinking about the evil that was mutating like a cluster of cancer cells. I approached Bentley with apprehension not knowing what to expect.
Close to town I saw zombies walking aimlessly in different directions like pigeons waiting for food in the park.
Some strolled into the road. Others drifted up and down the sidewalks like tourists window, shopping for something to tickle their fancy.
In the distance, I heard multiple sirens that echoed across town. It was obvious that all hell was breaking loose in Bentley. Main Street cut straight down the center of town to the boardwalk. Our three-bedroom cottage was just a block away on Huxley Lane.
I swerved all over the road, weaving around zombies like I was driving through an obstacle course. I flat ran over two of them when making a hard left onto Huxley.
I put the high beams on to get a better look down the street. In the light, I saw zombies gathered outside houses attempting to get in. No doubt they smelled human flesh. The cottage quickly came into focus and I gasped.
“You bastards!” I yelled, watching a female zombie enter our home through a large broken kitchen window.
I stopped the ambulance at the curb and raced out. I slugged a zombie blocking my path to the window. Then I heard Zelda’s bloody cry. A female zombie that looked like a hippie with a tie-dye shirt and long golden hair had bitten her left forearm.
Zelda screamed in immense pain. Blood dripped. I slammed the foul creature to the floor and embraced Zelda.
“Come, we have to move quickly,” the doctor said.
“Thank God, Ray, you’re here, she said, covering the blood oozing down her arm.
I grabbed a kitchen towel and a fully loaded revolver that I kept hidden in the cabinet. I wrapped the cloth around Zelda’s arm and we walked toward the front door.
Standing in the doorway was yet another zombie. It was Mr. Carlin—our next-door neighbor. He looked hungry.
“Dennis, Poor Dennis,” Zelda said.
“He’s a demon now and he’s in our way,” I firmly. I shot it in the left leg. The ghoul paused a few seconds and started again.
I took dead aim this time, shooting the creature between the eyes. It immediately dropped to the floor. I took Zelda’s hand and made for the van.
Our path was clear. I opened the passenger door for Zelda, and then closed it behind her. I ran back to the driver’s side and climbed in. I quickly turned the vehicle around and sped up the street.
“Ray, what in the hell is going on,” Zelda asked.
“I don’t know yet, but we need to reach Waverly fast,” I said.
“My arm is feeling numb where that thing bit me?” Zelda said, wincing.
“I can treat you at the institute,” I said, looking at the blood-soaked towel on my wife’s arm.
“Plus we have secure labs there that can keep us safe.”
I kept the high beams on and motored down Route 50. I watched for zombies that might cross our path.
I tried the communication panel again, but only got white noise. Then I turned on the radio to WZZQ. After a 30-second ad spot to promote summer fun at Ocean City, the news began. Zelda smiled at the irony of it all.
“People who have died are transforming into flesh-eating zombies and committing acts of mass murder. Their bites are infectious and the zombies are multiplying,” the female reporter said.
“Ray, am I going to turn into a zombie?” Zelda said terrified.
I put my right hand on Zelda’s left leg, trying to calm her. We listened intently as the news continued.
“It’s reported that the ghouls have infested virtually every town on the Eastern Shore. The situation is rapidly deteriorating. The National Guard has been called in and the Coast Guard is sealing off all waterways. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge is closed, except for emergency vehicle use. Every effort is being made to contain the situation.
Based on eyewitness reports, the crisis began in the afternoon when a radioactive leak at the Cambridge Nuclear Plant went airborne. The leak was quickly discovered and sealed.
However, high levels of radiation were detected in the area.
Some scientists believe the radiation may have caused dead cells in the recently deceased to regenerate. Perhaps this abnormal activity stimulated partial brain function, bringing about re-animation, yet also triggering an infectious agent within the body.
Just hours ago, two workers at a morgue close to the contamination saw three cadavers come to life and just walk away
At least a dozen other re-animated dead bodies were seen wandering outside a hospital and several funeral parlors within a 35-mile radius of the nuclear plant. Like an epidemic, the zombie pathogen spread rapidly. Within hours, the ghouls had penetrated towns and villages throughout the shore.
Authorities urge everyone to stay indoors in a locked location. Windows must be securely covered to prevent breakage or entry. We’ll be back in 10 minutes with another update. This is Susan Preston reporting for WZZQ.”
I clicked off the radio, and looked at Zelda. Her usual radiant glow was gone.
“How are you holding up?” I asked.
“I’m getting the chills,” she said, keeping pressure on her arm wound.
I was concerned that the zombie bite had infected her blood. I tried not to show it.
“We’ll be at the institute shortly,” I reassured her.
We soon reached the bridge where my car stalled. The zombie had long ago finished devouring the ambulance driver and the paramedic. It was walking at a steady pace down the center of the bridge.
A perverse thought entered my mind. Why don’t I run the son-of-a-bitch over? But I changed my mind at the last second and played it safe.
Seconds later, I drove past the site where the ambulance crashed. Blood and body parts that looked like they had been through a meat grinder were splattered everywhere. Zelda covered her mouth and nearly vomited at the site of it.
A few seconds later, we reached my car. I stopped and the picked up my cell phone. I sped off again.
A few miles down the road, I took Exit 9. Waverly Medical Institute was on the right and up a short hill. At the security gate, the guard didn’t recognize me. I opened his window. The guard stepped closer.
“Hello John,” I said, poking my head out the window.
“Why, Dr. Wescott,” the guard said. “What are you doing driving an ambulance?”
“It’s a long story,” I said. “But my wife is injured, and I need to get her in for treatment as quickly as possible.”
“Right away, doctor,” the guard said.
The steel gates slid open and I drove the van in. I went to the south side of the campus and pulled up in front of a two-story building with large glass windows. I did most of my research there.
“We’re here, Zelda,” I said. “And I’m going to take care of that arm.”
“I think I know what it feels like to be dead,” she said. Her face had a chalky appearance. She was shaking.
“This whole thing has been a shock to your system,” I said, checking her wound. “You’re going to be okay.”
I then took Zelda to a treatment room where I replaced the bloody towel with a fresh bandage and injected a local anesthetic into her injured arm. I waited a few minutes for the painkiller to take effect and then amputated her arm. She screamed in immense pain before passing out. I hoped it might stop the infection from spreading.
“You rest now, sweetheart,” I whispered into my wife’s ear. “I’ll be right back.” Meanwhile, I darted across the hall into my office. I quickly turned the radio to WZZQ to get another news update.
“The situation grows worse by the minute,” the radio voice said. “It appears those bitten by a zombie transform into one.”
I didn’t need to hear anymore. I turned off the radio and quickly returned to Zelda. Her pulse was weak and it appeared that all life was draining from her body.
“Come on, Zelda,” I said. “Wake up. You have to wake up now.” I reached for Zelda’s hand. It felt cold like moist putty.
“Zelda, my love, you’re going to make it,” I said, holding back the tears. She squeezed my hand and slowly opened her eyes.
“I will always love you,” she said, looking into my eyes.
Then Zelda let go of my hand. Her head rolled over to one side, and her eyes closed. She was dead.
I held Zelda in my arms and sat motionless. I broke down. A couple tears tricked down my cheek. A deep, sinking feeling paralyzed me. The love of my life was gone forever.
Or so I thought. Less than a minute later, Zelda woke up like a monster straight out of a horror movie. Her eyes opened. They were dark and lifeless like a shark’s eyes. Our eyes met and a chill ran through my body.
I realized that my beloved wife had transformed into a flesh-eating zombie. Her teeth clenched as she eyed my neck. I gave her the old stiff arm, shoving her backwards. I stepped back from the bed. She got out of the bed and started toward me.
“Zelda, you must stop,” I said, pulling out the revolver. But she kept coming. I then aimed the gun at her head. But I didn’t have the heart to shoot her.